Plot No 37A Elm Road Woodlands, Lusaka, Zambia
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11TH AUGUST, 2021
For immediate release
2021 ELECTIONS A TEST FOR DISABILITY INCLUSIVE POLITICS
Disability Rights Watch and its partners are calling upon all eligible and registered persons with disabilities to turn out en masse and exercise their right to vote in Thursday’s elections.
The Zambian constitution and subsidiary laws including the Persons with Disabilities Act guarantee the right to vote and to participate in the public and political life of the country to persons with disabilities.
By participating in the election as voters and candidates persons with disabilities are claiming their space on the high tables of decision making and affirming their choice of economic and social policy direction they desire to address their needs and aspirations.
The increase in the number of persons standing as candidates in this year’s election speaks to the increased levels of awareness on the right of persons with disabilities and an improvement in public attitudes towards persons with disabilities including women with disabilities.
We however note with concern the low number of persons with disabilities engaged as polling staff by the Electoral commission of Zambia. This is an infringement to the rights of persons with disabilities to fully participate in the electoral process. Persons with disabilities should not be seen as potential voters only but also as citizens who can contribute positively if engaged in the electoral processes.
The effort made by the commission to provide braille jackets in all polling stations is commendable. This will enable men and women with disabilities who are visually impaired to cast their secret ballot. However we are concerned at the lack of awareness on this facility and poor or nonexistent orientation which will render the jackets unusable. Visually impaired or blind voters should not however be discouraged by this lapse on the part of ECZ but proceed to vote with the assistance of any persons of their choice.
We further commend various Civil Society Organizations that have engaged persons with disabilities as election monitors and observers. This is a true sign of the recognition of the services that persons with disabilities can offer.
It is in this same line that we wish to emphasize the need for persons with disabilities to freely take part in the electoral process of the country.
We also wish to commend political parties that adopted persons with disabilities to contest in this year’s general elections. It gives us great assurance that strides are being made towards a disability inclusive society.