The election stakeholders call for inclusive electoral processes and equal representation from all sections of the society in elections.
In a virtual learning sharing programme, conducted by the Election Commission, Nepal (ECN) with four national organizations and civil society federations on 31 May 2020, the stakeholders appeal to make future elections more inclusive. The virtual learning-sharing meeting was the first of its kind. ECN and election stakeholders came together to discuss the recommendations gathered by The Nepal Association of the Blind (NAB), the National Federation of the Deaf Nepal (NDFN), Sanchairka Samuha and the Shikharapur Community Learning Centre for the ECN. These four organizations were all supported by the ECN and the Electoral Support Project in 2019 to reach voters with visual and hearing disabilities, female journalists, and socially and geographically marginalized voters. During the session, concrete recommendations on designing outreach materials for the hard of hearing voters were also provided in the discussions
In 2019, the NAB and NDFN developed training manuals for the visually impaired and the hard of hearing voters which would not only encourage them to vote during elections, but also serve as an impetus to run for elections. The push for inclusive elections was also a strong underlying theme of the workshops that Sancharika Samuha organized with female journalists. These workshops sought to encourage female journalists on electoral and political reporting as well as to create a platform for dialogue between female parliamentarians and female journalists. Similarly, the Shikharapur Community Learning Centre conducted community-level trainings on civic and electoral education to community mobilisers at the grassroots.
The virtual learning-sharing event offered ECN with an opportunity to gain a closer insight into the issues faced by the various sections of the society in accessing electoral and civic education. The event also showed the solidarity and commitment on part of the ECN and various election stakeholders for elections, despite the trying times because of the coronavirus pandemic, and demonstrated how technology allows the continuation of collaboration and partnership. The event had simultaneous sign-language translations and saw participation not only from these four organizations, but also from the Chief Election Commissioner Mr. Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya, Election Commissioner Mr. Narendra Dahal who oversees inclusion at ECN, the Secretary Ms. Dev Kumari Guragain and all the Joint Secretaries along with other ECN staff.
UNDP’s Electoral Support Project, with financial support from the European Union, partnered with the four organizations in 2019 with the objective of expanding voter education outreach. These four organizations conducted 33 events that reached 1,457 participants, among whom 777 identified as women and 1 as a gender minority. After a robust discussion and recommendations from the organizations, the Chief Election Commissioner assured that ECN would pay close attention to making the election processes inclusive. In addition, he requested the partners to incorporate electoral education content in their trainings so that they too would support ECN to reach voters in all corners of the country.
The Electoral Support Project- Phase II (ESP) is a technical assistance initiative which focuses on a long-term institutional and professional capacity development of the Election Commission (ECN) for conducting credible, inclusive and transparent elections. The objectives of the project are 1) to strengthen the capacity of the ECN to function as an independent and credible institution, 2) to allow the conduct of the election cycle in an effective, sustainable, and credible manner, and 3) to increase democratic participation, particularly for under-represented and disadvantaged segments of the Nepali society. In 2019, the ESP was funded by the EU and UNDP.