How can we as Nigerians successfully push the agenda of inclusion of Persons with Disability (PWD) in the electoral process? What has been done and what still needs to be done?
With over 25 million PWDs living in Nigeria, only quite a number occupy political positions in the country. Strengthening Citizens Engagement in the Electoral Process (SCEEP) was a project that strived to eradicate barriers that prohibit full participation of persons with disabilities as voters and candidates in the coming elections in 2019.
The SCEEP dissemination event that took place on July 5th 2018 and was huge success. The event attracted stakeholders and partners and the SCEEP team was delighted to speak with the gorgeous Ekaette Judith Umoh.
So before you jump to read the valuable insights she shared with us on the issues around inclusion of PWD’s, let me first of all share a bit about who she is and what she does.
Ekaette Judith Umoh is first female President of the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities-JONAPWD, an umbrella body of all disability organizations in Nigeria.
She is a Vice Chairperson that holds a Master’s Degree in Social Works and a Post Graduate Diploma in Education. She is a passionate social inclusion expert with over 16 years of experience in disability management, inclusive development, governance and civil society.
Her contributions to the field of disability management and inclusive development span thematic areas like training, research, campaigns and advocacy programs around disability mainstreaming.
Ekaette is primarily a Laboratory Scientist with specialty in Microbiology and Virology. Ekaette is the founder and Executive Director, Family Centred Initiative for Challenged Persons (FACICP).
She is In the West African sub-region, she is Vice President, West African Federation of the Disabled-WAFOD and Regional Chairperson of Disabled People’s International (DPI)-Africa Region.
More so, she is an Executive Council Member of the African Disability Forum-ADF, an umbrella body of all national, sub-regional, regional and Pan Africa Disability organizations in Africa. As National Coordinator of Global Fund for Women Grantees Network, Ekaette became the first woman with a disability to lead a mainstream women’s civil society group in Nigeria. Mrs. Ekaette Judith Umoh is widely travelled and skilled in public speaking.
Great personality right! Now let us go over to the insights she shared with us and let #TheSceepStory continue.
You may want to listen to the audio or you could just go ahead and read it for yourself.
Good afternoon Ma. We’re media consultants for SCEEP project.
Please just a quick introduction of yourself before we start.
Okay my name is Ekaette Judith Umoh, I’m the national president of the joint national association of persons with disabilities which is the umbrella body of all disabled people’s organization in Nigeria.
Can we say SCEEP project has effectively pushed inclusion of persons with disability in the electoral process?
Absolutely, but for me, my take away from the SCEEP project would just be around disability. The SCEEP project has helped increase visibility for the issues of persons with disability and their participation in electoral process and you saw the documentary. I like the fact that every aspect of it featured at least persons with disability and how we’re trying to be involved.
We may not be there yet but this is a very good step in the right direction and everyone is beginning to be aware, so apart from creating visibility, so much of awareness and community around the issues of persons with disability, the SCEEP project has successfully pushed disability discourse to the front burner taking it away from the charity perspective and situating it as a governance issue.
So ma, are we likely to see more persons with disability coming up to particularly run for political process?
Absolutely, you need to know how politically aware we are, we’ve always been so politically aware and this time around we’re trying to take advantage of our numerical strength. You hear us brag about being 15% of any given population, we say like over 170 or 190, you do 15% of that, you find that we’re over 27 million persons living with disabilities in Nigeria, now if we take advantage of that numerical strength.
That gives us some kind of courage to be able to vie for any office, so be rest assured 2019 we are definitely going to show up, we will participate. We take forms, but currently we are working INEC to addressing those barriers that would actually stop us from going further because just expressing the interest is not just enough to enable you participate, because when you get to the field, you meet those barriers. We’re working with INEC right now to make sure that it’s addressed to an extent so that we can effectively participate in the electoral process.
Can you share some of those barriers?
Okay, the levels of barriers persons with disability actually experience are 3-4 levels, we have the institutional barriers, the environmental barriers and the attitudinal barriers, then the social barriers. So let me start from the social barriers.so let me start from social barriers, that starts with oh, she doesn’t belong here, you don’t fit into societal description of what they call human beings or less of a human being that kind of stuff.
Perception again is worse which bears with the attitudinal barrier, what is perception about what we can and cannot do, so with that kind of negative perception about persons with disability we’re excluded, that is a huge barrier and so people having those kind of attitude in mind addresses us and engages us based on their perception which is very terrible.
The institutional barriers has to do with policies in the electoral act processes that will enable us participate effectively and we have taken that one to another level that’s why we’re working with INEC to develop what is called INEC disability frame work, it has been validated and would soon be launched to address those institutional barriers which has to do with laws policies electoral act to enable persons with disabilities participate.
So in all of this how would you say SCEEP as a project really impacted on persons with disability and general participation in the electoral process?
From 1-5 I’ll rate skip 4.5, very good, almost excellent, I didn’t make it 5 because we still have some few steps to cover, like I said earlier on the beginning of this conversation is that it has created huge awareness, it has promoted visibility, it has opened up space for persons with disability to even discuss and it has built confidence for persons with disability to discuss so I’ll say SCEEP is a huge success when it comes to promoting issues of persons with disability on electoral process.