Rapid Assessment Survey Report: Barriers to Participation of PWDs in Kenya’s 2022 General Elections
Persons with Disability make up about 2% of Kenya’s population as per the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census. Over and above their ever increasing numbers, PWDs have unique needs and unique reasons for improving public services, especially in social sectors. As such their representation is not just a matter of law but also of necessity for inclusive and sustainable development. Informed by global human rights instruments, the Constitution of Kenya and subsequent legislations provide an elaborate framework for inclusion and participation of PWDs in the electoral process.
With a view of promoting this cause, Endorois Indigenous Women Network (EIWEN) in partnership with Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is implementing a project titled, ‘Monitoring the extent of inclusion of PWDs from marginalized ethnic minorities into Kenya’s leadership and political Space’. EIWEN commissioned a rapid assessment on the progress achieved towards inclusion of Persons with Disabilities from Marginalized & Indigenous Ethnic Minorities in Baringo, Narok and Nakuru Counties as part of project implementation. The assessment found that participation of PWDs in the electoral process remains low. Across the target counties, not a single PWD was elected to office for any of the five positions contested at ward, constituency and the county level.
Only 6 PWDs were registered as candidates in the general election in 2022 as the majority of PWDs who aspired for elective positions were eliminated at the level party nominations. Pertaining voter registration, only 0.65% of registered voters in the 2022 general election were persons with disabilities Low access to information among PWDs, weak internal democracy in political parties, non-consideration of the unique of PWDs by IEBC, financing challenges, stigmatization, propaganda and violence are among the key barriers for participation of PWDs in 2022 elections.
Even with the aforementioned challenges, there are emerging opportunities to bolster participation of PWD in the electoral processes. These include open election processes, progressiveness in political parties, opportunity to vie on independent tickets and advocacy for PWD inclusion by CSOs.
This report thus recommends sustained civic and political education targeting PWDs and the general public. IEBC should create mechanisms to facilitate PWDs in critical electoral processes such as voter registration and elections. It should also make voter registration centers and polling stations PWD-friendly and progressively consider having sign language interpreters, ballot papers printed in braille among other unique needs for PWDs.
On the other hand, political parties should adhere to the principle of inclusivity and adopt progressive policies and practices that promote participation of PWDs. On their part, PWDs should participate actively in constituting and managing the affairs of the political parties with a view to influence internal policies, regulations and practices in their favor. Based on the lessons learnt so far, Parliament should review existing electoral laws to further promote representation of PWDs in the elective bodies.