Local Organizations and IFES Work to Promote Inclusive Elections in Myanmar
Since 2013, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) has collaborated with the Myanmar Independent Living Initiative (MILI) to raise awareness of the political rights of persons with disabilities and encourage their participation in the electoral process. With this support, MILI facilitated advocacy workshops with a variety of electoral stakeholders, including parliamentarians, and developed a booklet to raise awareness on disability inclusion in elections. In June 2015, for example, MILI coordinated a workshop with the Union Election Commission (UEC) and Members of Parliament to discuss areas for improving access for persons with disabilities. Approximately 98 people attended the meeting, including members of the media and other government departments. From this meeting, the UEC agreed to pilot Braille ballot templates for areas with large numbers of blind individuals.
MILI’s workshops and advocacy efforts have also led the UEC to draft new regulations regarding polling station accessibility, including a regulation allowing voters with disabilities to choose who will assist them when voting (if needed), and to adopt a new polling station layout to improve access for persons with disabilities.
IFES is also working with local partner Yaung Chi Thit (YCT) to implement a women’s leadership program entitled She Leads. The program builds on the success of IFES women’s leadership programs in Cambodia, Indonesia and Libya. Through this program, YCT is training women across Myanmar’s 14 states and regions, including women with disabilities and women from different ethnic backgrounds. The program provides women with knowledge of the electoral process, develops leadership skills and emphasizes the important role that women play in the political process. As of mid-July 2015, YCT has trained over 500 women in all states and regions. Women all over the country are already using their new knowledge and skills to mobilize their communities to support the voter list update and the upcoming election. One woman who participated in a training in Mandalay said, “I want more women to be leaders in Myanmar. I want to be a leader in my Hindu community … Girls should have choices. I want to fight for the rights of girls. I want things to change for the next generation of girls.”
IFES supports inclusion programming under the “Support to the Election Process in Myanmar” program funded by the Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade, the UK Department for International Development and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, and under the “Elections and Political Processes Assistance,” a program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.