In many places in the world there are people who struggle to be heard. When it comes to having a voice in the highest authority in the land, the difficulties in some countries can be almost insurmountable.

Access issues affect all aspects of an election. People with special needs face numerous barriers to participation in political and electoral processes. This module examines strategies for promoting their participation in elections,

This module is designed for women and men in electoral management bodies, governments, donor agencies and NGOs, gender specialists, disability specialists, as well as individual consultants and trainers, who are interested in access issues in relation to election processes, and/or have the responsibility of ensuring fair access in their organizations.

The module explores some key governmental and societal elements that must be aligned to ensure all eligible voters are able to participate in all election processes. These include:

  • legal framework
  • social and political opportunities and openness to political participation
  • access to voter registration and voter education
  • election management and
  • election observation

Sequence of Topics

  • What is Access?
  • Understanding Human and Political Rights
  • Understanding Electoral Rights and Our Commitments
  • Understanding Groups with Access Issues
  • Understanding the Categories of Groups
  • Access Issues and Strategies in an Election Context
  • Planning for Access
  • Workplace Diversity
  • Evaluation and Conclusion

Module aims:

  • Identify people who may have special access needs in the election process, e.g. who have access issues due to their race, colour, age, sex, sexual orientation, minority status, language, literacy level, citizenship status, level of mental or physical ability, past or current incarceration, socio-economic status, place of residency or employment, employment status, HIV/AIDS status, health etc.
  • Gain appreciation of access-related electoral issues and concerns
  • Provide guidance on monitoring the electoral participation of special access needs groups
  • Identify potential areas of discrimination in electoral processes
  • Acquire skills in identifying and analyzing concerns through case examples of strategies and practices to address concerns
  • Assess the obstacles faced by people with special access needs in public life.
  • Compile ways in which people with special access needs can increase their role in election administration
  • Formulate Action Plans: Institutional and Individual.

Contents of the Workshop/Module

The module is structured around the various phases of the electoral cycle, election stakeholders and political life:

1.         Election Phases

  • Explores the level of participation for people with special access needs as voters, candidates and elected representatives, as well as in leadership roles within state institutions, electoral management bodies and political parties.  Explores how the legal framework and media structures affect these people.
  • Explores the nature of the barriers faced by people with special access needs in participating in each stage of the electoral process (including poverty, literacy and cultural factors)
  • Explores a range of strategies to assist people with special access needs in accessing electoral processes.  Cites various international declarations and resolutions that highlight government obligations to ensure this.

 2.         Election Stakeholder Organisations

In election administration, as in the wider world, people with special access needs seldom occupy high-ranking positions or possess significant public status.  In this module, participants explore some of the obstacles faced by people with special access needs in the workplace and public life, and look at ways in which they can be overcome.

The module focuses on analyzing and addressing inequality in the staffing, procedures and culture of organizations as well as in development programs.  It covers practical strategies and skills for mainstreaming the inclusion of people with special needs, including the use of planning frameworks, logical frameworks and inclusive policies that address typical access issues.  Critical analysis of current theory and practice is encouraged throughout the course.

It also explores best practices from around the world that enhance the participation of people with special access needs in both post-conflict and more stable democracies.

3.         Political Life

This module explores the concept that democratic elections are key to peace-building in post-conflict situations, and that the inclusion of all types of people is vital to ensuring sustainable democracy.  Elections provide a key opportunity for people who regularly suffer discrimination to have their voices heard and their concerns addressed.  Through participating in elections, their potential contributions to peace and democracy can be maximized.

Through regular contact with officials, political parties, media representatives, NGOs and other electoral stakeholders, people with special access needs can provide valuable insights into the rights of all types of people, the barriers to equal participation in public life, and the reforms that might help overcome them.


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