BRIDGE Takes Electoral Accessibility Campaign to peak levels
As the Nigeria 2015 general election approaches, all efforts have been explored in order to improve on the credibility of the exercise by ensuring greater participation of persons with disabilities (PWDs) than what was recorded in previous elections.
To this end, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme/Democratic governance for Development Project (UNDP/DGD II) organized a one week BRIDGE workshop from 22-26 September 2014, for INEC Civil Society Organizations (CSO) desk officers and Media representatives in Calabar, Cross River State.
The workshop was aimed at ensuring PWDs which account for over 20 million of Nigerian’s population enjoy adequate access to the electoral process, which will in turn enable them to exercise their civic responsibilities and franchise.
The one week training, themed: ‘Training on Access to Information on Electoral Process Module,’ emphasizes the equality of all persons as enshrined in the provisions of electoral laws at the same time focusing on non-discrimination against PWDs.
While declaring the workshop open, the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Cross River state, Barrister Mike Igini encouraged the Desk Officers to take advantage of the BRIDGE training to ensure increased participation of PWD’s in the 2015 general election and subsequent elections.
He noted that INEC as an Electoral Management Body (EMB) has a greater responsibility towards ensuring mass participation in all electoral activities.
“The workshop was designed for officers who are expected to engage with Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in the course of their jobs. Accessibility is to enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life,” he stated.
Igini however hailed UNDP for being responsive to the plight of PWDs by sponsoring the training, noting that the programme would enhance capacity of INEC Desk Officers in reaching out to the special need groups.
In her own remark, INEC Deputy Director in charge CSO division, Mrs. Rose Oriaran-Anthony described the workshop as a timely intervention towards enhancing capacity of the desk officers. She noted that the Commission would continue to organize special trainings on issues concerning effective participation of PWDs in electoral processes.
The UNDP representatives, Ms. Anne Ikpeme who explained the fundamental objectives of the training, noted that the initiative would strengthen capacity of election administrators in the discharge of their duties effectively.
Highlights of the training include defining access and different categories of PWDs as well as the correct language and terminologies to be used. The programme also chronicled key areas of the electoral process where access barrier issues were identified and the specific mitigation strategies appropriate to Nigeria context were proposed.
It exposed participants to the laws and international conventions related to access and electoral processes and the fundamental human rights of people living with disabilities. It also covered what strategies need to be put in place to enhance access in all electoral processes.
Resources persons included the Lead international Facilitator Ms. Rindai Chipfunde Vava from Zimbabwe and two other facilitators from INEC, Mrs. Mary Nkem, and Mr. Sunny Ezumah.