“Disability is not inability” they say, and this is the reason why the National Electoral Commission (NEC) yesterday engaged the disabled women to know about their right to vote since they are also part of the country’s development.
Speaking at the forum the Gender and Disability Consultant of NEC Salome Muigai said that Sierra Leone is one of the African countries which has just come out of a civil war and this war left more than 3000 women and men disabled as they were amputated.
The NEC Consultant disclosed that the disabled women are faced with some challenges because whenever she goes out she sees a lot of disabled men begging in the street, while the women are not visible among them.
“Invisibility creates inequality” she said explaining that “these women are made invisible because of gender and their disability, as these are the curtains which cover these women”.
Another discrimination that the disabled women are faced with is that they miss out on funding because most of the disabled organizations are headed by men and whenever they receive funding they will treat the women like a homogenous group and the women are given a token.
The NEC Consultant who is also a disabled revealed further that “majority of us do not have access to have sufficient education to even approach the first rung of the empowerment ladder by not going to school. Gender in disability is governance and rights issue because it has kept this category of women completely out of participation in government” she said
She commended NEC for this bold initiative to hold such a seminar to sensitize women with disabilities on voter education as the election is fast approaching.
Yasmin Fofanah of Mano River Women Peace Network (MARWOPNET) said her organization is going to ensure that all women take part in the development of the region. In the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) it was recommended that the government should apologise to the women for the sufferings they went through during the 11 years war but since “the government did not do it we – I am gong to apologise to the disabled women for what they went through when we were away.”
She stated that they are looking forward to see disabled woman become polling agents, polling officials, Commissioner or even Chief Electoral Commission.
Outlining the purpose of the seminar Miatta French the Outreach Officer of NEC said that in this particular election they will make people aware of the process.
She added that the disabled are part of the country that is why they are organizing such a programme for them.
Ms French admonished them to take the message to other people disabled or not they should be informed about the process as the election is not a secret.