Somaliland elections: enforcing the right to vote for people with disabilities
On 13 November, voters in Somaliland elected their new president. Over a period of more than two years, Handicap International (HI) encouraged people with disabilities to participate in the electoral system. This inclusive elections initiative was implemented in six of the country’s regions and benefited some 300,000 people with disabilities.
A group of people with disabilities at a civic education course. | © HI
“I voted for the first time in my life,” said one woman, a wheelchair user, in her sixties. “I didn’t have to queue up in the heat. As soon as the team in charge of the polling station saw me, they came to fetch me and took me to the front of the queue. I’m proud to have voted for my country.”
People with disabilities were able to exercise their right to vote with dignity and pride thanks to the responsiveness of the population and organisers.
Over a period of two years, HI raised the awareness of some 300,000 people with disabilities. Six polling stations were adjusted to make them accessible to people in wheelchairs and on 13 November 25,600 people with disabilities voted.
HI and its partners noted that people were aware of the needs of people with disabilities on election day, and asked polling station staff to assist them.
Enhancing the involvement and representation of people with disabilities in local political life
HI launched its awareness-raising campaign in 2015 and trained disabled people’s organisations to run civic education sessions for people with disabilities and their families. With technical support - management, governance, oversight and civic education training - and financial assistance from the organisation, the aim was to provide them with information on elections and to encourage people with disabilities to vote.
It also raised the awareness of the public and local actors to ensure people with disabilities were better taken into account in the electoral process.
HI also worked to protect and advance the rights of adults and children with disabilities in Somaliland. It organised workshops with the families in question to provide them with information on mental disabilities. HI also implemented a media communication campaign on TV and radio and ran awareness-raising sessions on the rights of people with disabilities for the general public and political leaders, including the national electoral committee, political parties, and international NGOs and local government organisations.
This training allowed 90% of participants to develop a better understanding of disability and inclusive elections.