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TEERE: Ensuring the most excluded have a vote

Despite Ghana’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, many people still face stigma, persecution and are unable to exercise their rights as citizens. Social exclusion is a major challenge in Ghana, and those affected are often unable to participate in decision making and elections.

‘Disability is not inability’

During the 2016 elections, STAR-Ghana's partners TEERE and SILDEP came together to run the ‘Mini-Max’ campaign in the north-east and north-west regions of Ghana respectively – to increase voter turnout and reduce rejected votes. The campaign focused on people with disabilities (PWDs), the elderly, women, youth, people affected by HIV/AIDS and those living in remote areas. 

TEERE PwD Centre Bolga

Understanding the issue

The 2012 election had already taught us a great deal about the need for voter education, particularly because of the huge number of rejected ballots. To build on this knowledge and ensure our work benefitted the communities in the most effective way, TEERE went door-to-door to educate voters, explain the benefit of voting, and to hear people’s concerns. We learned that: 

  • Many people who had turned 18 hadn’t registered to vote and didn’t know how.
  • People with disabilities felt side-lined and disillusioned with the voting process. The long queues and lack of access to voting buildings had stopped them voting in the past.
  • Some people with disabilities were recruited and trained as election officials for the 2012 elections, but were dropped on the day of the election due to accessibility issues and poor planning.
  • The visually impaired found it difficult to vote because of the lack of tactile jacket during 2016 district assembly election.

 

Activities included:

  • Field officers went door-to-door in remote communities to encourage people to vote and explain the process.
  • Radio announcements and discussion sessions were held about the elections on three regional and two local stations, in English and local languages.
  • Vans broadcasting information via sound systems visited remote and hard to reach communities.
  • Voter education was carried out at schools to target those who had recently turned 18.
  • We organised a forum with the Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations (GFD) and the Upper East/West regional director of the Electoral Commission. This was a rare platform for GFD to voice their concerns.
  • We helped facilitate the recruitment and training of three people with disabilities as temporal electoral officials.

Georgina Ayamga, a student, was very excited to be chosen as a parliamentary ballot issuer and have the opportunity to work for the first time. Having a role of responsibility at the elections made her feel valued and included in the process:

TEERE PwD Centre Bolga Georgina Ayamga Avaabo election official and student 3

‘I was happy. People saw that I had something to do. I don’t like the words able and disabled – it means you cannot… People said that because of my physical challenge I would not be picked to work with the Electoral Commission.’

Georgina Ayamga, parliamentary ballot issuer at the 2016 Ghana elections and member of the Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations (GFD).

Project achievements

Voter turnout

Many areas saw a drop in voter turnout, but in the regions covered by this programme the number of registered voters significantly increased, as did voter turnout during the 2016 general election. Only a tiny percentage of ballots were spoilt.

Participation by people with disabilities in the elections

As a result of the forum organised between the Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations (GFD) and the Electoral Commission, three people with disabilities in the Upper East region were recruited, trained and used as presiding officers at the elections. Two of the three recruited were women.

George Ayuuma, a presidential ballot issuer at the 2016 Ghana elections and member of the Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations (GFD), said:

‘I never knew one day I would be an official, even a presiding official in conducting elections. I am happy and our association is happy with the Electoral Commission for including us.’

TEERE PwD Centre Bolga Ayuuma George Regional Secretary

Building bridges between communities and the government

Community groups and other stakeholders will continue to engage the Electoral Commission and other bodies beyond the  election.

Reaching remote areas

TEERE budgeted for four field officers to go door-to-door, but managed to restructure the programme to use 11 and reach a wider area and more remote communities. We also used existing community meetings and structures to increase our reach.

Lessons and opportunities

Key lessons from this project include: 

  • Use existing community meetings and structures for voter education. They are already set up and trusted and will be sustained beyond the life of the programme.
  • Collaborate with stakeholders and grant partners from the start, as an important tool to facilitate voter education.
  • Use local languages and sign languages as a tool to access and reach out to very disadvantaged people. This was used on local radio stations and through community groups.

Challenges

  • Where the community was very under developed or neglected, some citizens were unwilling to vote.
  • Due to the monetisation of the electoral system, some people expected to be paid to attend voter education.
  • Untimely rainfall, poor road networks and farming activities can make it difficult to vote.

 


 

Election 2016 grants

STAR-Ghana’s first call for grant proposals supported initiatives promoting peaceful, credible, issues-based and inclusive presidential and parliamentary elections for Ghana in 2016. Out of the 219 organisations that responded to the call, 35 were awarded grants totalling $US2,216,167.

More about the election 2016 grants.

 

With Thanks to our Funders

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