As Zimbabwe gears up for the 2023 elections, a notable collaboration between the 4-H Zimbabwe Foundation and the National Peace Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) has paved the way for over 40 PWDs in the Midlands region to receive extensive training on leadership, development, and peacebuilding.
The significance of this initiative stems from the often-overlooked reality that PWDs continue to be sidelined in vital electoral procedures and developmental discussions. A concerning pattern has persisted, wherein their voices and perspectives are not adequately represented, perpetuating their exclusion from the core fabric of societal progress.
John Muchenje, the executive director of the 4-H Zimbabwe Foundation, emphasized the paramount importance of equipping PWDs with comprehensive knowledge of the Electoral Act and incorporating them into the broader peace-building discourse. He articulated that nurturing a state of enduring positive peace, underpinned by the principles of inclusivity and active participation, constitutes the driving force behind this initiative.
Addressing this critical gap, Muchenje stated, “The aspiration for a sustainable, positive peace firmly rooted in the inclusion and participation of Persons with Disabilities motivated the 4-H Zimbabwe Foundation to collaborate with the NPRC for this exceptional capacity-building endeavour within the Midlands Province.”
The workshop’s achievements reverberate with the resonance of progress, aligning seamlessly with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Zimbabwe’s National Disability Policy of 2021. By providing a platform for knowledge enhancement, this partnership has effectively countered the historical discrimination and marginalization of PWDs, thereby fostering a more equitable society.
With a focus on the forthcoming elections scheduled for August 23, the training has heralded increased peaceful involvement and empowerment of PWDs, who now stand as informed and conscientious participants in the electoral process. The capacity-building initiative’s magnitude is underscored by the engagement of over 40 PWDs from the Midlands region, who have been fortified with insights into leadership, development, and the intricacies of maintaining peaceful electoral proceedings.
However, despite these commendable efforts, PWDs still face formidable challenges in accessing their right to vote and participate in the electoral processes.
According to the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN), these challenges include a lack of accessible polling stations, voter education materials, assistive devices, sign language interpreters, and braille ballots. ZESN also noted that PWDs are underrepresented as candidates, election officials, observers, and party agents.
ZESN urged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and other stakeholders to ensure that PWDs are fully accommodated and integrated into the electoral processes, in line with the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the Electoral Act.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe, which was adopted in 2013, provides for the rights of PWDs to be treated with respect and dignity, to participate in social, economic and political activities, to access education, health care, and public amenities, and to be protected from discrimination and abuse.
The Electoral Act, which was amended in 2018, also provides for the facilitation of voting by PWDs, including the provision of tactile ballot papers for the visually impaired.
PWDs constitute about 15% of Zimbabwe’s population of 13 million people. They have diverse needs, interests, and aspirations that should be recognized and respected. They have the potential to contribute positively to the development of the country if they are given equal opportunities and support.
Therefore, PWDS must be fully included in the electoral processes and development issues as active citizens who can exercise their democratic rights and responsibilities