On February 7, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) released a documentary that highlights successful disability rights advocacy in Libya and the “Rights Unite” campaign. The documentary – which was made possible through the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) – explores how the Election Access Working Group, which was established with the support of IFES and USAID in 2013, began as a fragmented group of disability rights advocates and flourished as a successful advocacy group. The Working Group’s activities included the “Rights Unite” campaign to raise awareness about civil and political rights guaranteed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the creation of the Libyan Forum of Persons with Disabilities.
In a series of interviews, members of the Election Access Working Group discuss barriers to their full participation, such as stigma and stereotypes about persons with disabilities, laws that are not harmonized with the CRPD, and buildings that are physically inaccessible. As one advocate notes, “Inaccessibility hinders persons with disabilities from reaching most officials. In most public sectors, they will tell you, ‘stay, stay, I will come down to you. You don’t need to come up to where I am.’ But to me, I see that I have the right to express my opinion and reach others just like those without a disability do.”
The Libyan Forum of Persons with Disabilities was established as a small group of disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) in 2015 with support from IFES and USAID, and as a result of the efforts of the Election Access Working Group. Since that time, it has grown to include 40 DPOs. In 2015, the Forum advocated for the draft constitution to be aligned with the CRPD, and in 2017, the Forum focused on inclusive media to empower people with disabilities in political life.
“We must participate at a larger rate in society to guarantee our rights and to participate in raising the awareness toward the rights of persons with disabilities to change the general view of persons with disabilities…” -Ahmad Ajaj, Libyan disability rights advocate
The documentary is available with subtitles in Arabic and English, and there is a version with Libyan Arabic Sign Language.