WINDHOEK – An organisation representing the interests of Namibians with hearing impairment says its members are being sidelined from electoral processes and campaigns ahead of the Presidential and National Assembly elections next month.
The organisation has criticised the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) and political parties for not doing enough to cater for their members when conducting civic voter education programmes aimed at sensisiting eligible voters for the upcoming general election.
None of the political parties contesting the general election has translated its manifesto into sign language to enable this special group of people to keep in touch with political events.
Statistics show that Namibia has over 20 000 hearing impaired individuals.
Namibian National Association of the Deaf (NNAD) director Paul Nanyeni lamented one common challenge, which is access to civic and voter education.
He said there is little that has been done for hearing impaired Namibians in terms of voter education preparation.
“We are aware that ECN has a person representing the persons with disabilities but there has been no communication from her good office or the ECN as an entity. To go with that, sustainable development goals call for an end to inequality. However, without access to this crucial information we are indeed left out,” Nanyeni noted.
Contacted for comment, ECN chief electoral officer Theo Mujoro was not available at the time of going to press. Nanyeni, however, cited one case of a deaf person elected as a voter officer and stationed in Otjiwarongo. He said the ECN has refused to transfer the official to areas where there are many hearing-impaired Namibians.
He added that Otjiwarongo is home to very few hearing-impaired people compared to Windhoek and the coastal towns or the far north. “For instance, I wrote to the honorable SG of the Swapo Party asking her to give us a platform to participate, we are sure she received, read the WhatsApp message, but no feedback on the way forward.
“Most of our members have membership cards of their political parties of their choice, however, these persons are not always properly informed. We are yet to see a rally with a sign language interpreter, but those parties will need our votes,” he maintained.
Nanyeni said there is no discrimination as to whatsoever that hinders a person with disability to participate in politics.
However, this becomes a serious challenge, considering there is limited access to information.
He feels there is little inclusion from the political parties, as they do not avail sign language in their programmes, adding that without that, deaf people cannot participate, as they do not know what is happening.
2019-10-30 07:29:13 | 9 months ago