This story is part of a series highlighting the work done through the Equal Rights in Action (ERA) Fund. Through the ERA Fund, NDI supports local activist organizations all over the world, strengthening democracy and defending the human rights of marginalized communities. LGBTQI+ communities, people with disabilities (PWD) and other marginalized communities face discrimination and unfair treatment at the individual and systemic levels, operating with limited resources and overcoming tumultuous circumstances. By supporting these communities and amplifying their voices, NDI reinforces a diverse democratic presence in various regions throughout the globe.
Disability rights are an integral part of any democracy as globally, they represent over 15% of the population. It’s important for a governing body to understand the needs and values of the people they represent. Even basic things such as accessibility of government buildings are not universal, and there is much to be done to ensure that PWD can be a part of the political process. When vulnerable groups, such as people with disabilities, are given the tools and resources to participate in advocacy, political recognition and representation are more attainable.
Iraq: Sheyaw Organization for Youth and Vulnerable People Development
Sheyaw Organization for Youth and Vulnerable People Development, a non-governmental, non-religious and non-profit organization in Iraq, works to advocate for and empower youth with disabilities. The organization works to engage youth with disabilities in local advocacy, creating a culture of human rights and emphasizing the principles of democracy. Through this work, Sheyaw strives to reduce the stigmas that marginalized populations face. NDI’s ERA fund works with Sheyaw to conduct capacity-building workshops and trainings for people with disabilities in the region.
Sheyaw also holds trainings for youth with disabilities to learn about topics such as project planning and management. Sheyaw additionally demonstrates the intersectionality of gender and disability by conducting interactive sessions on gender-based violence and disability leadership for women with disabilities. With ERA Fund support, Sheyaw is preparing the next generation of disability-focused leaders in Iraq and beyond.
Georgia: Association Anika
In Georgia, Association Anika is a non-governmental organization that promotes disability rights and advances innovative social services in Georgia. With over 25 years of experience, the Association Anika is an active member of various national and international organizations and associations and closely liaises with local, regional, state governmental and nongovernmental actors. With this collaboration and cooperation, Anika taps into best practices and focuses on evidence-based and impact-oriented approaches, resulting in successful advocacy for policy change and actions for beneficiaries.
The organization conducts activities to promote the rights and social inclusion, education and employment of people with disabilities. Specifically, with support from NDI’s ERA Fund, Anika created a database for local disabled persons organizations (DPOs) in six of Georgia’s fourteen regions. With this database, Anika has met with DPO members to assess the needs of people with disabilities within those regions. Anika published a comprehensive guidebook on legal roles, rights and responsibilities regarding disability. Additionally, they conducted advocacy activities with members of Parliament to advance proposed amendments to the Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Georgia. With NDI support, Anika is building bridges and starting necessary conversations to initiate legal change and advocate for people with disabilities.
Haiti: Filles à Besoins Speciaux pour la Reforme (FIBESR)
In Haiti, Filles à Besoins Speciaux pour la Reforme (FIBESR) is a grassroots organization that empowers and defends the rights of women and girls with disabilities. The organization aspires to improve the living conditions of women and girls with disabilities in Haitian society and to strengthen their voices in decision-making mechanisms. In order to achieve these objectives, FIBESR implements programs focused on five fundamental pillars: capacity building and participation in political life; gender equity and social justice; housing and social assistance; education; accessibility and inclusion.
With support from the ERA fund in 2022, FIBESR established an accessible community education and cultural center for people with disabilities. This center is equipped so that users can benefit both independently and equitably, where various resources are made available to community members for capacity building. The center has enabled the continuous support of an estimated twenty young women with disabilities and survivors of violence through psychosocial and recovery support.
They additionally serve as a venue for organizing awareness-raising activities with key government and civil society actors, providing them with technical support and guidance on how to properly account for disability, specifically when working through the various phases of organizational and community planning. FIBESR is also responsible for building the capacity of its staff to develop and improve their skills in the areas of organizational management, communications, strategic planning, and the management and monitoring of cases of violence against women and girls with disabilities.
NDI’s ERA Fund channels support to different regions by uplifting and empowering people with disabilities to take part in advocacy, political activity and democratic processes. Through different programs across various regions, working through partner organizations to embolden people with disabilities and create a more diverse democratic force for change.
Author: Hannah Richards, Project Assistant on the Government Relations and Communication team
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.