Historically, persons with disabilities (PWDs) in Jordan have rarely participated in elections either as candidates or voters due to prevailing cultural stigmatization against PWDs, the absence of accessible polling stations and a lack of awareness on their rights to participate in the electoral process or how to vote. Moreover, disabled persons organizations (DPOs) do not have the capacity to advocate for PWD rights or raise awareness on a large scale. An added challenge is the lack of data about the number of PWDs in Jordan and the types of disabilities in each electoral district.
“If there were opportunities for people with disabilities like there are opportunities for able bodies, we would have a better society.”
NDI-Jordan Persons with Disabilities Participant
Recognizing the barriers for PWDs’ participation in Jordan’s electoral processes, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) launched a program to empower PWD citizens to participate in Jordan’s November 2020 parliamentary elections. Working closely with the Higher Council for the Rights of PWDs (HCD) and the Independent Election Commission (IEC), NDI provided support to four DPOs to encourage participation of PWDs and advocate to key stakeholders for increased accessibility to voting processes. Through locally held awareness raising sessions, participants learned about Jordan’s election law, the role of parliament, ways to identify preferred candidates, voting lists and the role of PWDs in the electoral process. One participant remarked, “This is the first time I learned about my rights in elections and the importance of PWD voting.”
In the lead up to parliamentary elections, NDI also provided individual consultations and trainings to six PWDs officially running as candidates- the highest number of PWD candidates in Jordan’s history. Following a needs assessment to identify gaps in skills and knowledge, NDI implemented training sessions focused on candidate registration procedures, election campaign strategies, constituency and voter outreach, campaign message development, communication skills and the role of candidates on election day. NDI also assisted participants in creating Facebook pages for their campaigns and provided the candidates with instructions on developing and editing video content on social media platforms.
One PWD candidate took what he learned and put it into action. Noticing that the Ministry of Political and Parliamentary Affairs (MOPPA) did not include images of PWDs in its voter education campaigns, the PWD candidate applied his communication outreach skills to advocate for a change in the media content. As a result, MOPPA changed its poster to include a PWD citizen as seen in the photo on the right.
Although PWDs continue to face challenges to their participation in Jordanian electoral processes, the work of NDI and local organizations has provided an opportunity for PWDs to better understand their rights, participate as candidates, and have their voices heard.
NDI's engagement in Jordan is implemented with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS).
Author: Mirvat Salameh is a Senior Program Assistant with the MENA Team at NDI.