Innovative Practice 2019 on Independent Living and Political Participation

Increasing political participation through targeted lobbying on many levels

The Federation of Disability Organizations in Malawi (FEDOMA), an umbrella organization of 12 disabled people’s organizations, is carrying out a multiple method approach in four districts to improve respect for and the participation of persons with disabilities in Malawian politics. Measures focus on engaging with election stakeholders, but also include lobbying political contestants, holding public debates, and promoting media coverage. Since the start of the programme there have been several successes, such as the Electoral Commission engaging with people with disabilities in the development of its strategies and the use of tactile ballots.

“I have been attending FEDOMA meetings and seminars on leadership, and these have increased my confidence in public speaking and improved my general management of resources.”

Brighton BaluwaMayor of Luchenza
About the practice at a glance
Name of Innovative Practice:Promoting political participation by persons with disabilities
Organisation:FEDOMA
Country
of Implementation
Malawi

FACTS & FIGURES

  • To date, 24 persons with disabilities have expressed interested in running for office.
  • The project has directly engaged with 40 ward councillors and 18 members of Parliament.

PROBLEMS TARGETED

Malawian voters with disabilities often find themselves excluded from participating in political matters due to a lack of accessible political information and inaccessible voting materials.

SOLUTION, INNOVATION, AND IMPACT

Person with a disability reading a petition paper on inclusion in Mulanje.FEDOMA targets stakeholders involved in electoral processes, such as the Malawi Law Commission, the Malawi Electoral Commission, and the Parliamentary Committee on Social and Community Affairs; and it meets, consults, and encourages these organizations to make voter participation more accessible by lifting legal and administrative barriers. FEDOMA also identifies and encourages potential candidates with disabilities to stand for council and parliamentary elections, carries out media campaigns to raise awareness, and monitors electoral processes.

The project is run at both the national and community level, but it specifically targets the four districts of Lilongwe, Machinga, Balaka, and Mulanje.FEDOMA’sconsulting and awareness campaigns have contributed toimplementationof new measures in voting practices, such as the use of tactile ballots and the provision of sign language interpreters for electoral information on national television. In addition, the Electoral Commission now regularly involves persons with disabilities in the development of its voting strategies and has enlisted FEDOMA to carry out civic education on elections for persons with disabilities.

FUNDING, OUTLOOK AND TRANSFERABILITY

Between 2014 and 2016, FEDOMA’s campaigns were funded with $140,000 from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and $50,000 from the Finish Government. From 2016 to 2017, USAID contributed $40,000, and the Norwegian Association of the Disabled provided an additional $10,000 each year.

As of 2018, FEDOMA continues to work with the Malawi Government and is advising the Electoral Commission on the 2019 election. It is also assisting in drafting a bill that would ensure several seats for persons with disabilities as members of Parliament.

Replication of the practice is readily possible through the transferring of existing knowledge, the documenting and sharing of methods used, and face-to-face meetings.

A Blind man from northern region of Malawi in a mock election.

FACTSHEET

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