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05.06.2012 Politics

Campaign To Promote Electoral Rights Of PWDs Launched

By Alice Aryeetey - Daily Graphic
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The Ghana Federation of the Disabled (GFD), a national umbrella of organisations of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) in Ghana, has launched a campaign to mobilise the needed support, especially from the media, to promote the well-being of PWDs in the society.

The campaign forms part of efforts to promote the political and electoral rights of Persons with Disability (PWDs) as enshrined in Article 29 of the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of PWDs and all other related laws governing the country.

It has the theme: “Towards Election 2012; making information available and accessible to persons with disability”.

Speaking at the launch in Accra on Friday, the National Administrator of the Ghana Society for the Physically Disabled (GSPD), Mr Charles Appiagyei, noted that members of the association had been part of the electoral processes and had partnered CODEO and other organisations in monitoring the processes.

He called on all stakeholders, especially leaders of political parties to ensure that the country enjoyed peace before, during and after the elections, adding, “we are vulnerable to violence and if there is violence, it will increase the number of people who will be vulnerable to violence as well”.

Mr Appiagyei appealed to the Electoral Commission to appreciate the concerns of the PWDs, while urging the media and the general public to portray PWDs in the society positively.

THE GFD Project Coordinator, Mr Alexander Bankole Williams, who presented a brief overview of the GFD’s election project, said they expected manifestos of various political parties to include issues that deal with the well-being of PWDs in the country.

He noted that as part of their activities to support the EC in the electoral processes, sensitisation programmes to educate the members across the country on the Biometric Voters Registration (BVR) was organised.

A direct engagement with the EC, he said, was held to train electoral officers in the country on how to deal with PWDs as well as psychosocial disabilities during the electoral process. People who were not visually impaired were also trained on how to use tactile balloting and to assist the blind during the process.

Mr Williams noted that they intended to train political party agents on accessibility issues and called on the EC to provide sign language interpreters at selected polling stations across the country.

Mr Williams also said they would interact with the EC at the national level to ensure the effective inclusion of PWDs in the entire electoral process.

“We would also collaborate with Coalition of Domestic Election Observers and other like-minded groups to participate with PWDs in the entire monitoring of the whole electoral process”, he added.

A Gender and Disability Desk Officer of the EC, Mrs Abigail Ampomah Nutakor, said she was happy to know that PWDs were also participating in measures meant to ensure a fair and peaceful election.

She expressed appreciation to the GFD for monitoring and writing a report on the BVR exercise and expressed optimism that it would also help in knowing the number of tactile ballot papers for the upcoming elections. She appealed to all PWDs to help themselves by giving out the required information.

The First Vice-President of the GFD, Mr Yaw Ofori Debra, when launching the campaign, said the association would ensure that all its members participated fully in the electoral process. He added that the media had been an effective instrument in the association’s efforts to be included in electoral processes over the years, and pleaded with media personnel to continue partnering them in their activities to improve the lives of PWDs in the country.

On its monitoring of the recently ended BVR exercise, the Executive Director of the GFD, Mrs Rita Kyerema Kusi, said although there was some discrimination during the recruitment of electoral officers for the exercise in some areas, the EC did a good job, educating electoral officers on how to deal with PWDs. “There were most cases where PWDs had the opportunity to register before those they met at the registration centres”, she said.

She stated that the EC was aware of the rights of PWDs and provisions were made for them, although generally, knowledge of disability was very limited. She called on the EC to provide sign language interpreters to help the hearing impaired since they (hearing impaired) were many.

Mrs Kusi also entreated the EC to engage PWDs in the training of electoral officers since they could also do better in that respect.

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