Since 1987, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) has worked in countries around the world to support the political rights of women and men with disabilities. On December 3, 2018, IFES partnered with local disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) across the globe to celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which aims to promote the rights and well-being of people with disabilities and to increase awareness about their situation in political, social, economic and cultural life. The theme for this year’s celebration was empowering people with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.
Bringing the celebration to Tunisia, the IFES team joined a disability rights-focused Twitter campaign; organized a roundtable of DPOs, civil society organizations (CSOs) and government officials to discuss the barriers to political participation experienced by people with disabilities; began work on a sign language lexicon of electoral concepts; and partnered with a local radio station to broadcast three radio shows about issues faced by people with disabilities.
Celebrating Leadership of People with Disabilities
Throughout December @IFESTunisia participated in a Twitter campaign launched by @IFESDisability to recognize the political leadership of women and men with disabilities. Tunisian DPO representatives and IFES team members posted photos with statements describing the barriers to the political participation of people with disabilities and what is needed to overcome those barriers. Follow updates using the hashtags #AVoteForEveryVoice and #LeadersEnabled.
Assessing Access and Barriers to Political Participation for Tunisians with Disabilities
On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, IFES organized a roundtable with CSOs, DPOs and two commissioners of the Higher Independent Authority for Elections (ISIE). The roundtable’s objectives were to facilitate discussion between the ISIE and the DPOs about the measures needed to encourage the participation of people with disabilities in the upcoming 2019 parliamentary and presidential elections and to establish regular channels of communication between the ISIE and DPOs.
IFES kicked off the roundtable by presenting the findings and recommendations of Political Participation of Women and Men with Disabilities in Tunisia: An IFES Assessment, which examined the barriers to political participation of Tunisians with disabilities, focusing primarily on the preparations for and conduct of the 2018 municipal elections. The assessment spurred debate and discussion among the roundtable participants. Following the discussion, DPOs presented their work to defend and advance the rights of people with disabilities and their political participation. This session allowed participants to learn more about each other’s activities and ways to enhance their own programming. Finally, the ISIE outlined the legal framework related to people with disabilities and reviewed the numbers of people with disabilities who stood as candidates in the municipal elections and were elected mayors and municipal councilors.
During the roundtable, IFES disseminated the final version of the assessment report. A Braille version and USB drives with audio recordings of the report chapters were distributed to participants who are blind or have low vision, and all sessions were covered by sign language interpreters.
Radio ML Airing from IFES Mobile Radio Station
On December 7, IFES lent its mobile radio station to Radio ML, the first Arab and African community radio station specializing in issues pertaining to persons with disabilities, to broadcast a special program from three different locations in Tunis. The program was moderated by different radio hosts with disabilities and addressed the rights of persons with disabilities in Tunisia and how to increase their engagement and participation in public life. Around 23,000 listeners tuned into the show and more than 400 people gathered around the radio station to listen in. IFES Outreach Manager Khamayel Fenniche also presented the findings of the IFES disability rights assessment.
Tunisian Electoral Sign Language Lexicon
Finally, in August 2018, IFES initiated the composition of a sign language lexicon of the most common electoral terms. The lexicon is designed to help sign language users understand the technical electoral terms employed in official speeches that had been translated into sign language and broadcast on national television channels. In coordination with specialists in sign language and elections, IFES selected the 200 most commonly used electoral terms and began not only translating the terms into sign language, but also drafting sign language definitions of the terms. Both the translations and definitions are being captured in photos and videos with the assistance of sign language specialists and people who are deaf and hard-of-hearing. IFES will complete the electoral sign language lexicon ahead of the 2019 parliamentary and presidential elections and make it available on a mobile application and in book form, which will be given to DPOs for Tunisians who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
These initiatives are funded by the U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative and United States Agency for International Development.