DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — With only few days left ahead of October General Election, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) still has a lot to do in ensuring that the election is held in an environment where every Tanzanian with, prescribed criteria, participate in the ballot boxes.
There are a lot of complaints from the disabled people with regard to what NEC is yet to fulfill so that this marginalised group forgets what happened in previous elections and look foward on the coming general election. Association of Women with disabilities (SWAUTA) chairperson Ms Stella Jairos in an exclusive interview with the Daily News' 'POLITIKA' outlines discrepancies that, if not taken into consideration by NEC, it is indeed evident that the disabled are likely to miss their Constitutional right.
She says NEC has been disassociating people with disabilities in various issues, thus, leaving them in a dilemma. A lot of publications by NEC do not consider large print, for example, in the brochures and civic education publications and this has been very difficult for people with albinism to read. NEC has also delayed the publication of Braille books on civic education, something which Ms Jairos says has a huge impact to people with sight disabilities who until this time have little or no knowledge on how they would vote in the October election.
"This book was released last month, however, it is yet to be distributed in all regions so that all people with blindness would access it and understand the election procedures," Ms Jairos says. In previous elections people with sight disabilities were going on the polling stations with their relatives or friends to help them cast votes. However, in 2005, the government established the tactile ballot which did not materialize because there was no enough time to educate the people on how to use it.
With tactile ballot, people with sight disabilities do not require any assistance to vote. Voting is done in a more secret manner. This avoids tendencies by some unscrupulous people who have been purporting to assist blind people end up voting against the wish of those they are supposed to assist. "Until this time NEC has not yet started educating the people with blind disabilities on how to use tactile ballot, even to those who are in Dar es Salaam taking into consideration that elections are just around the corner," Ms Jairos complains.
SWAUTA chairperson says in 2005 elections, for example, the tactile ballot had no braille characters and it was just like a normal ballot box, thus, it was like writing numbers in the sea. In Tanzania, there are over 300,000 blind people who need to be considered so that their constitutional right to vote and to be voted would not be violated. Ms Jairos reminds NEC to ensure that polling stations are located where all people with disabilities can easily reach.
She says it will be difficult if the stations are stationed in upstairs of the buildings where it becomes difficult for them in terms of accessibility. In what SWAUTA chairperson describes as gender discrimination, NEC appointed representatives of people with disabilities to be incorporated in NEC's committees who, she says, are all men, something which accentuate the patriarchy system. Those appointed, according to her, includes Dickson Mzeyanga, a person with deaf disability who works in NEC's Committee of Information and Communication and Elias Masamaki who was appointed to represent the disabled in the Civic Education Committee.
Political parties again, are yet to incorporate people with disabilities to participate fully in the approaching election scheduled to take place at the end of this month. No doubt, that there is no single political party which has published a manifesto with Braille characters in order to ensure that people with blind disabilities would comprehend with what has been prioritized, instead of just using their close fellows to read for them.
Action on Disabilities and Development (ADD) Director, Mr Sixbert Mbaya noted recently, at the TGNP Braille voters manifesto ceremony, held at TGNP headquarters at Mabibo suburb in Da re salaam that political parties were discriminating people with disabilities, something which he said was contrary to the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania.
On campaign trails again, people with disabilities are left lagging behind because political cadres do not incorporate sign language experts to make the deaf understand policies and promises that are made on the campaign rallies. Ms Jairos requests politicians to organize special days for people with disabilities, so that they are all capable of attending, and it is undoubtedly that sign language experts would be available and those who need special assistance may attend as well.
She express her request to any presidential candidate who would be elected by majority votes to ensure that many people with disabilities are considered during presidential appointments. "People with disabilities constitute ten per cent of the country's population, in this regard, I advice any person who will be sworn in as a president after October polls to ensure that more people with disabilities get representation," says Ms Jairos.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
From The Daily News in Tanzania:
Posted by BA Haller at 10:52 AM