Disabled people in southern Sudan have been supported by a UK development agency to take part in the referendum that will decide whether their region achieves independence from the north of the war-ravaged country.
ADD International (ADD) helped secure funding for three Sudanese disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) to raise awareness among their members of their right to take part in this month’s referendum.
The referendum followed decades of bloody civil war between the north and south of the country, with hopes that a vote for independence for the south will end Africa’s longest conflict.
Following a UN-funded workshop on voting rights for disabled people – organised by DPOs with support from ADD – the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission issued a document, Steps in the Voting Process, stating that disabled people must be shown to the front of the voting queue, while blind and visually-impaired people would be allowed to choose someone to support them to vote.
An ADD spokeswoman said: “ADD and its partners have achieved a lot in Sudan in really difficult circumstances.
“The work ADD does enables disabled people to advocate for their own rights and build the capacity of DPOs in order to create a strong disability movement.”
ADD International has been working in Sudan for more than 20 years, and has links with more than 40 DPOs, with a combined membership of more than 45,000 disabled people, many of whom became disabled through injuries sustained in the civil war.
Although there is backing for a national pan-disability DPO, progress towards setting one up is slow, due to the vast distances involved in travelling between existing impairment-specific DPOs.
ADD International now hopes to support DPOs in Sudan to push for further measures to improve access to voting at future elections, including tactile guides to allow blind people to vote independently, and sign language interpreters.
Last year, ADD in Sudan supported DPOs to act as observers in the general election and to meet with the Sudanese president to discuss election access issues.
It also enabled leaders and members of DPOs to be involved in the election as candidates, voters, trainers, monitors and observers, with at least two disabled people subsequently being elected.
17 January 2011