Q&A with Kavira Maghulu Marceline Yeye, Woman Candidate with a Disability

Updated: February 2021
Photo of a woman with a disability from the Democratic Republic of the Congo

In January 2021, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) interviewed Kavira Maghulu Marceline Yeye, a woman with a disability who ran for office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In 2020, she participated in IFES’ online training on the electoral legal framework for women civil society organizations across the DRC. She has also advocated for the promotion, protection and realization of the rights of women with disabilities in the DRC. A transcript of the interview appears below and has been lightly edited for clarity.

 

Can you tell us about yourself and what interested you in running for office?

 

My name is Kavira Maghulu Marceline Yeye, and I am 52 years old and mother of 6 children. I am a teacher and currently work as an assistant at the state division of payroll and teacher’s management (SECOPE) in North Kivu.

I am also the president of Women Living with Disabilities supervised by PAPH, an assistance and protection program for people with disabilities, and provincial coordinator of the League of People Living with Disabilities in North Kivu.

My passion for the promotion, defense and protection of the rights of my disabled fellows are the motivations that prompted me to run as a candidate.

Despite the signing of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2015 and various texts, including Article 49 of the Congolese Constitution, the condition of the people with disabilities has not yet reached a sufficient level. Following this observation, I resolved to run for elections in order to be the voice of my peers, defending our rights as recognized in various national and international treaties and conventions ratified by our country. My goal is to highlight the real problems of people with disabilities in general, and women with disabilities, in particular.

 

What are the main barriers women candidates with disabilities experience when running for office in the DRC and how can these be addressed?

 

The challenges seen by candidates with disabilities are multiple and different.

Among these obstacles, we will mention the main ones, which are:

  • Gender-related discrimination (sexism, misogyny, and abuse of women)
  • Underestimating intellectual and physical capacities of people with disabilities
  • Ignoring rules stated by the electoral law which protect people with disabilities
  • Lack of support [and no benefit from] the disability community
  • Lack of education and analphabetism
  • Lack of adapted accessibility for [people with physical disabilities]
  • Lack of financial resources to support election campaigns 
  • Sectarianism and tribalism

To overcome these obstacles, we carried out several activities with the financial help of a local non-governmental organization, CAFED (Collectif des Associations Féminines pour le Développement), including:

  • A campaign on the CRPD, ratified in 2015 by DRC;
  • A door-to-door awareness campaign on the importance to vote for a candidate with a disability; and
  • An awareness campaign for families on the effect of rejecting a person with a disability, and how this impacts family and the society.

 

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted political participation of women with disabilities in the DRC?

 

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic were different. Due to lockdown, we saw a reduction of political meetings and the access for voters became difficult. The number of people participating in rallies also decreased after the restrictive measures were imposed by the government. Moreover, the implementation of social distancing is sometimes impossible because persons with disabilities require the assistance of another person.

 

How has your participation in IFES’ programs prepared you to participate in political life during and after COVID-19?

 

The IFES training on election law and legal frameworks allowed us to strengthen and reinforce our capacities, to familiarize [ourselves] with national and international legal instruments for the protection of people with disabilities and to understand how claim our own rights.

 

Why do you think it is important for women with disabilities to participate in elections as voters, candidates, observers and election officials?

 

By participating in the elections as a voter, a woman with a disability fulfills her civic duties. With their vote, women with disabilities have the opportunity to help a candidate with a disability to be elected as a person who has a say and can take major decisions regarding their condition. Their participation is very important because they are directly and actively involved in the political life of their country. Their vote facilitates the access of a peer to the decision-making context.

The participation of women with disabilities as observers and electoral agents will ensure that their vote will be respected, protected and properly counted.

It is an opportunity for them to make themselves useful and to participate in the political life of their country at all levels.