The International Foundation for Electoral Systems supported the Election Commission of Nepal to organize a 3-day BRIDGE workshop on Access to the Electoral Process for 24 participants (5 women and 11 persons with disability) including ECN Officials and members of Disability Peoples Organizations’ (DPOs) which took place December 17-19, 2014 in Godavari, Nepal. This was the first time that BRIDGE’s “Access” module was implemented in Nepal, aiming to mainstream disability in elections. The event concluded successfully by enhancing the level of understanding, knowledge and skills of the participants enabling them to mainstream disability in elections.
The workshop covered important issues related to the access of persons with disability to the electoral process. The major topics discussed in the workshop were: cross cutting themes of elections, understanding disability, common myths and misconceptions about disability, electoral access simulation, language and rights, group with access issues, international human rights’ instruments on political and electoral rights of persons with disability (PWDs), Nepal’s legal framework on electoral participation of PWDs, introduction of Nepal’s EMBs, the electoral cycle, barriers PWDs faced in elections and the role of electoral stakeholders for removing these barriers. In addition, findings of election observation groups during the 2013 Nepal Constituent Assembly Election from a disability perspective and the initiatives taken by the Election Commission of Nepal for mainstreaming disability were also shared and discussed during the workshop. The training was facilitated by the group of the well experienced BRIDGE accredited facilitators including Mr. Shanti Ram Bimali an accrediting facilitator; accredited facilitators Ms. Radhika Regmi, Mr. Surya Prasad Aryal, Mr. Suraj Sigdel and semi-accredited facilitators Ms. Nilu Puri Basnyat, Mr. Shyam Kumar Yadav, Mr. Bishaksen Dhakal.
The effectiveness of the workshop was evaluated using pre/post-test questionnaires. The score of the pre and post evaluation showed a 50 % increase in the participants’ knowledge. In addition, participants evaluated the workshop on each day. Most of the participants well appreciated the interactive training methodologies and resource materials provided at the training. The Nepali version of the IFES/NDI publication “Equal Access, How to Include Persons with Disabilities in Elections and Political Processes” was also distributed to workshop participants. An ECN officer participating as a voter with visual disability (in blindfold, as shown in the picture) at a polling day simulation exercise exclaimed , “Until today, I had never realized how difficult it is for a voter with visual disability to cast a vote at a polling station in Nepal!”. The implementation of the Access module was taken very seriously in Nepal. with the participation of high officials of the Election Commission including that of an Election Commissioner.
At the end of the training, Ms. Nilu Puri Basnyat was accredited as a BRIDGE workshop facilitator by the Accrediting Facilitator Mr. Shanti Ram Bimali. Mr. Bimali thoroughly observed, mentored and supervised Ms Basnyat’s workshop preparation and facilitation and provided feedback during the debriefing.