Strengthening Transparency Accountability and Responsiveness (STAR)-Ghana is funding the one-year project with outlays from Ukaid, EU, DANIDA and USAID.
The project has also opened up the minds of many PWDs to opportunities of seeking jobs as Polling Officers during elections.
Francis Asong, Director of VOICE-Ghana told Ghana News Agency (GNA) that the underlying push for the project is to “mainstream PWDs into political decision making at the local level”.“Our motivation is an article in the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities calling for a ‘full and effective participation and inclusion in society’ of PWDs,” he said.
The Convention among other things call for the recognition of the “importance of the principles and policy guidelines contained in the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons and in the Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities in influencing the promotion, formulation and evaluation of the policies, plans, programmes and actions at the national, regional and international levels to further equalise opportunities for persons with disabilities”.
The Volta Regional Directorate of the Electoral Commission (EC) is a key corporate facilitator of the project.
Madam Regina Tackey, Head of the Gender and Disability Desk of the EC in the Region said “we are with them (PWDs) just like we do for other marginalised groups”.
She said the EC had at the request of VOICE-Ghana served as Counsellors for ‘PWD Unit Committee Member Aspirants and would be Polling Assistants’.
“Yes, at their capacity trainings we (EC) tell them it is not about disability but capability,” Madam Tackey stated.
She said an important message delivered to Polling Assistant Aspirants was, that they should be “politically neutral and have integrity”.Madam Tackey said the EC always want the best of outcomes and that everything it does is based on the constitution and the law so the stress “all Polling Officers must have the ability”.She said the Commission remains disability rights compliant, ensuring polling stations are accessible, voting screens conducive and the visually impaired provided with tactile ballot papers and where necessary “we give PWDs priority in voting”.
Mr Jonathan Okaine, Agortime-Ziope District EC Director in an interview at Agortime-Kpetoe said his office has had very fruitful interactions with Voice-Ghana regarding the interest of PWDs in local government elections.He said the EC would give PWDs the same support as it offer others vying for local government elections, such as common platforms to propagate their capabilities.
Mr Okaine said in their interactions, the EC impressed on the PWDs that there is a difference between a Party Agent and a Polling Assistant and that a PWD must apply to be a Polling Assistant as an individual.e said PWDs engaged as Polling Assistants during the 2012 elections generally performed well. Mr Charles Nyante, Programme Officer of VOICE-Ghana said PWD Polling Assistants in 2012 helped EC in tackling some of the accessibility issues at the Polling Stations they were assigned to.
He said 2012 project to get PWDs to work as Polling Assistants had somehow “dovetailed into the current programme, which had bigger objectives of getting members in to decision making processes especially at the local level and moving on”.
“Ours is not wishful thinking but a purposeful effort to meet the world’s drive for inclusiveness in politics and other facets of life for all,” Mr Nyante stated.
He said a lot of effort went into preparing the PWDs, the communities in which they live, as well as government agencies and traditional authorities on the need for Ghana to be in tandem with the world’s drive.
Mr Nyante said the project implementation process involved research, validations, house-to-house visits, follow-ups and evaluation. Stanley Wuikpor, a student the University of Education, Winneba, an aspiring Unit Committee Member told GNA that he believes he could reflect, impact and tackle the problems of his people better than others even as a PWD.Prosper Kporku; a Librarian at the Agortime Senior High School also a budding Unit Committee candidate said community mobilisation is his strength.
Esi Korda, a Trader at Ziope is another PWD Unit Committee aspirant who said her motivation is to seek the interest of her colleagues, often forgotten in the structuring of public buildings.