In the Dominican Republic, Volunteering to Promote Equal Access

January 18, 2013 - IFES

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Maria del Carmen Guerrero smiles for the camera.

When Maria del Carmen Guerrero German, a 23 year old student from the Dominican Republic, heard about La Red Iberoamericana de Entidades de Personas con Discapacidad, she eagerly signed up to volunteer her time.

La Red brings together members of the disabilities community in the Dominican Republic. “They work to defend the rights of persons with disabilities and give them a voice,” Guerrero said about the NGO, which partnered with IFES during the Dominican Republic’s May 20, 2012 presidential election.

Together, La Red and IFES registered persons with disabilities; held meetings between disability advocates and presidential candidates; and observed the electoral process to assess how inclusive it was of this population.

One of Guerrero’s first assignments was to observe the elections in Hato Mayor del Rey, her hometown province.

“By participating, I was able to get a better idea of the problems persons with disabilities face, which are obstacles to full participation,” she said. “I was especially eager to join the effort because it entailed observing barriers that persons with disabilities, like myself, face.”

Guerrero, who has no forearms, believes young people like herself can make a difference. “Young people can be an example by bringing ideas to the table and collaborating with adults who don’t have access to the community,” she said.

She also has ideas on how to better attract youth to civic engagement opportunities. “To motivate young people to participate, you must be creative. The activities that are implemented have to generate interest among young people. They can include interactions with other youth and even adults, but the activities should retain a youth-centric focus. We usually get bored by formal meetings,” she added with a smile.