Political leadership courses for young people with disabilities
- IFES - International Foundation for Electoral Systems
- Country of Implementation
- United States of America
- North America
- Start Year
- First published
“Before the course I didn’t feel the need to be part of any political groups. Now I understand that it is my duty to fight for my rights.” A course participant, Dominican Republic ENGAGE.
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) is a US-based NGO working globally to build resilient democracies that deliver for all . IFES developed the ENGAGE programme in 2018, a political leadership course for young people with disabilities that builds their skills to be leaders in their communities, combining both theory and direct experience. Implemented initially in the Dominican Republic, by 2022 ENGAGE has been replicated, in coordination with local DPOs and university partners, in five more countries and one autonomous region.
Young persons with disabilities often face enormous barriers when engaging in political life.
Solution, Innovation and Impact
ENGAGE is a global political leadership course for young people with disabilities. Developed by IFES, it is implemented by local DPOs. Through in-person or online courses, it builds the skills of young people with disabilities to be leaders in their communities and provides direct community engagement experience in the form of internships and community action projects. Implemented initially in the Dominican Republic, ENGAGE has grown both in scale and content, and the curriculum has been adapted and refined for specific country contexts. This can be seen in its implementation in five more countries, working closely with local DPOs and university partners. After the ENGAGE training, participants are found to have increased political and civic engagement in the long term. In the Dominican Republic, for example, three alumni were hired by the Central Electoral Board and City Hall. Additionally, the Dominican Republic’s election commission created the first Disability Inclusion Policy in the country, inspired by the programme. In Ukraine, one alumna ran in the 2020 local elections and was elected to the Kyiv Oblast Council.
Funding, Outlook and Transferability
ENGAGE was piloted in the Dominican Republic in 2018 as part of a $75,000 project funded by IFES and USAID, in collaboration with Disability Alliance for our Rights, a Dominican NGO. IFES provides grants when partnering with DPOs, and in some contexts it has also established Memorandums of Understanding with universities to conduct the course. During the COVID-19 pandemic IFES and the Association of Indonesian Disabled Persons adapted ENGAGE into an online curriculum. ENGAGE has shown to be easily adaptable to specific country contexts, implemented as a formal or non-formal civic education course with local partners such as universities and DPOs.