Political Inclusion of Marginalized Groups

Increasing political inclusion is a cross cutting objective for NDI. Democracy is more likely to develop and endure when all segments of a society are free to participate and influence political outcomes without suffering bias or reprisal. But in many new and emerging democracies, large portions of the population are excluded from politics based on their ethnicity, religion, age, disability, gender or sexual orientation.  The Institute works to increase the participation of these groups so they can have a voice in the political process and achieve a greater level of equality, understanding that political participation is a fundamental means of addressing the social and economic inequities associated with marginalization.

Marginalization can be understood as persistent inequality and adversity resulting from discrimination, social stigma and stereotypes.  From inaccessible polling stations to information unavailable in minority languages to discriminatory laws to a lack of access to information, significant barriers to entering the political process exist for those at the margins. NDI partners with local groups to eliminate those barriers, change public perceptions of these groups and support their voice in mainstream politics.

NDI recognizes that various segments of the population experience marginalization differently, and aims to ensure democracy empowers all citizens. Understanding the nature and depth of marginalization is the first step toward combatting it. Following the principle of “Nothing about us without us,” NDI consults with representatives from marginalized groups to design programs that meet their needs. The Institute uses tools such as survey and focus group research to provide a starting point for building awareness and establishing partnerships. Similarly, NDI strives to comply with the “Do no harm” principle, making every effort to prevent all programs from reinforcing barriers to these groups’ rights and participation.

While members of marginalized groups share common hurdles to their ability to participate in political processes, there are also variations in age, socio-economic status, gender or geography that can impact them in different ways. Members of an already marginalized population may face “double” or “triple” exclusion owing to their gender, age or other characteristics. For example, youth represent different genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, economic statuses, education levels and religions, creating major variations among their needs and interests. This often results in differing priorities and can make it difficult for young people to achieve consensus and take collective action.

NDI’s approach has been to involve members of marginalized communities in mainstream political activities, such as election observation or issue advocacy, alongside other citizens, while encouraging political parties, elected officials and government institutions to reach out to these populations and take their interests into account. NDI also works directly with organizations and networks representing marginalized populations to help them address exclusionary institutions, laws and processes. Targeted support might assist them with advocating for legal reforms, getting elected to political office or pressuring governments to sign an international agreement, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

Read more about our work with:

For more information about NDI's work with marginalized groups, contact:

Marginalized Communities

Washington, D.C.

Lauren Kitz, program officer, Citizen Participation

[email protected]

Youth Programs

Washington, D.C.

Mike Sweigart, program officer for youth participation

[email protected]

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