A virtual learning-sharing programme was conducted between the Election Commission, Nepal (ECN) and four national organizations and civil society federations on 31 May 2020. The Nepal Association of the Blind (NAB), the National Federation of the Deaf Nepal (NDFN), Sanchairka Samuha and the Shikharapur Community Learning Centre 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. The mission of all these programmes was 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 that the four organizations gathered for the Commission. The presenters, echoing the voices from the participants across the country, recommended ECN to ensure inclusion in each step of the electoral process and to secure representation from all sections of the society in elections. Moreover, 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 the past year 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.