The Ghana Federation of the Disabled (GFD) has appealed to Electoral Commission (EC) to ensure that People Living with Disabilities (PWDs) have improved access to polling stations, registration and exhibitions centres in the 2016 general elections.
They tasked the EC to broaden the scope of accessibility in terms of physical environment, communication, and information sharing as well as organise periodic orientation of its officers and security personnel on disability and elections.
Mr Isaac Tuggun, GFD representative, stated at a stakeholders review workshop organised by Coalition of Domestic Elections Observers (CODEO) on the 2014/15 District Level Election.
The CODEO post 2014/15 review seeks to draw lessons from the conduct of the elections to help improve the conduct of future elections, as well as to help enhance the participation of marginalised groups and the citizenry in general in local level elections and local governance.
Mr Tuggun also called on political parties to collaborate with the federation to sensitise and educate party agents, communication officers, and candidates on disability and electoral related roles.
“We call for sensitisation and education on electoral procedures, processes and relevance of the DLE.
This calls for collaboration between GFD and civil society organisations on one hand and the EC, National Commission for Civic Education, on the other,” he said.
Mr Tuggun urged the EC to enhance the quality of the tactile jackets used for voting by the blind electorate to ensure total secrecy in voting; saying “the current jacket absorbed ink marks which compromises on the secrecy of the vote.”
The federation also appealed to the EC to collaborate with the security agencies to design and implement appropriate mechanism to protect PWDs in the event of violence at polling stations.
On the participation of PWDs in the 2014/ 2015 DLE in Ghana, Mr Tuggun said the uncertainty of the date for the DLE frustrated the efforts of the PWDs who wanted to contest the elections.
He said initially the Federation empowered 105 PWDs to contest but due to change of dates on several occasions; most of the PWDs lost interest and decided not to contest the elections again.
He said GFD on its own observed DLE at Tema West, Ga West, AMA, Adenta, La Nkwantanang, and Madina, all in the Greater Accra Region; Ayehbronmgu, and New Juaben in Eastern Region.
He said 23 PWDs in 30 districts won the elections, whilst through a petition to President John Dramani Mahama, 87 PWDs across the 216 municipalities were appointed as government appointees to serve in the assemblies.
Ms Esther Tawiah, Executive Director, Gender Centre for Empowering Development (GenCED), speaking on participation of women in DLE elections, noted that to ensure higher women participation, young girls should be encouraged to observe proceedings during assembly sittings.
“We must develop a long term strategy to nurture women and girls’ interest in the DLE and national politics by exposure to grass root deliberations, and developmental agenda of the district assemblies.
“We must also reduce issues and antagonism which turn to frustrate and discourage women as well as other vulnerable groups in DLE,” Ms Tawiah noted.
Speaking to the Ghana News Agency, Ms Tawiah explained that Ghana must continue in the quest for a fair and safe community in which men and women have equal opportunities to participate, decide, control and take advantage of all development initiatives.
She called on gender stakeholders to intensify initiates as well as facilitate capacity building through knowledge-based training and transfer of skills as well as programme development and management for women in order to promote gender mainstreaming.
The workshop was attended by NCCE, EC, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Institute of Local Government Studies, Youth Bridge Foundation, Abantu for Development, CFI of IDEG, and the media.