Political participation is an important step in demanding and asserting one’s human rights. For people with disabilities, particularly women, participating in politics and public life at community, district or national level is often a challenge.
Since 2017, Sightsavers has been implementing a political participation project in Cameroon and Senegal, which has supported both countries to deliver its democratic priorities by promoting an inclusive social and political environment.
In line with the project monitoring framework, a baseline cross-sectional survey was carried out in 2017 to provide reliable data on the participation of people with and without disabilities in political life in project areas, concentrating on participation in elections, political parties and political discourse. In Cameroon, the study took place in the Centre Region, Far North Region, and Southwest Region. In Senegal, the study was implemented in four urban areas: Kaffrine, Kaolack, Louga and Dakar (Pikine East and Pikine South).
In 2022, an endline study was done in order to examine the impact of the Political Participation Project between 2017 and 2021 and to inform future work. The endline study was implemented in the same areas as the baseline, except for the Southwest Region where research activities were cancelled due to insecurity.
In our studies, people with disabilities reported being just as interested in discussing politics as people without disabilities. Yet they were less likely to have voted in an election. Our results show that people with disabilities were less likely to meet the basic administrative requirements to be able to vote, which is to have a birth certificate, a national ID card and a valid voter card. These findings suggest that our programmes should focus on supporting people with disabilities to address these administrative challenges.
Organisations of people with disabilities can play a critical role in facilitating access of people with disabilities to essential documentation and thus increase their participation in election and other aspects of political life.