On June 13, 2018, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) co-hosted a side event panel discussion at the Conference of States Parties for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) with Disabled People's International (DPI), Special Talent and Exchange Program (STEP), National Assembly of Persons with Disabilities (NAPD), Fight for Right, United Nations Development Programme, Election Commission of Pakistan, United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), and United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The panel discussed intersectionality and Article 29: Making Political Participation Inclusive of Persons with Multiple Social Identities. Full text of the transcript is available below.
Virginia Atkinson: To help determine those unique barriers, we've developed an intersectionality assessment framework. We've piloted this in the Dominican Republic, Armenia, and then Tunisia.
For the first time in the Dominican Republic, we were focusing on youth with disabilities. The goal for us was that we wanted to tailor our programs to make sure we were being inclusive of persons with disabilities. We had focus group discussions with men, adults, women, young persons with disabilities and young persons without disabilities.
One of the most interesting things we found was that young people without disabilities identified nepotism and clientelism as the main barriers to access to the political process.
However, young persons with disabilities were experiencing so many other obstacles before getting to nepotism. The two main barriers for young persons with disabilities was a lack of education about the political process as well as misplaced stereotypes from their family and their communities assuming they were not interested in participating in politics.
We're now tailoring the program to mitigate those barriers in the Dominican Republic for political life. We're developing an advocacy campaign to dispel some of these myths for the engagement of young people to participate in political life.
In addition to looking at political participation to help target programs and voter education programs, in Armenia, Armenians with disabilities have been advocating for a national disability rights law for years. They haven't gotten anywhere. The government delays. Nothing is happening.
Last year, a group of disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) formed the Coalition for Inclusive Legal Reform including 22 DPOs and other civil society groups such as women's organizations, LGBT groups, etc. Now this coalition has been speaking as one voice to the government.
The government has actually now read the law through parliament. It's made several rounds of revision. It's on track to be passed hopefully in the near future.
By forming these coalitions, persons with disabilities were able to amplify their voices and increase their case. They were also fortunate to learn from the women's movement who had been advocating for a gender-based violence law. They were able to share their lessons learned from previous legal acts.
We're fortunate to be joined from speakers from around the world from Lebanon to Ukraine to Pakistan. We have different types of stakeholders as well. We will discuss political participation in each of their contexts and the barriers persons with disabilities face. There will also be good practice examples that can be transferred to other locations.
We will hear from each speaker for about 8 minutes. Hopefully we'll have time at the end for questions and answers. The speaker from Lebanon will be first. Then Ukraine. Then we'll have a case study from Pakistan where we will hear from the perspectives of a donor, a DPO, and an election management body, which is responsible for running the election.
From these three different perspectives, we will hear how collaboration has happened in political participation in Pakistan. We are also fortunate to be joined by a special guest, the Pakistani ambassador to the UN. When she arrives, we will give her the floor for a couple of minutes.
First, we are joined here by the president of the Lebanese Union of People with disabilities. She is very well recognized internationally as a disability rights advocate.
She's worked on ratification of Lebanese law, Conference on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, employment, and disability participation. She was Vice Minister of political affairs in Lebanon. This is not in her official bio but in 2008 she was voted the most powerful woman in Lebanon! Tell us about gender and participation in Lebanon.
Ms. Sylvana Lakkis: Thank you for this wonderful introduction. I'm going to try to give you, in the 8 minutes, the conclusion of our experience as one of the biggest minority groups in Lebanon, which is people with disabilities. And our process in trying to reach out for an inclusive society for all.
I'm here today on behalf of the Lebanese for people with disabilities. But I'm also a member of DPI International. And the Forum for the Rights of People with Disability. Maybe I should talk about the context in the country, Lebanon. Lebanon is known as a country with around 18 different religions.
We have a sectarian system based on religions. You vote based on religions. You get a job based on this. And so on. And this was done as an excuse for diplomacy which has nothing to do with it. In Lebanon we have brothers and sisters.
From Palestine there since the land was occupied. These people also face discrimination regarding exercising their civil rights. In Lebanon as people with disability in general, we face discrimination. We managed in 2000 to have a new disability law which is based on human rights law. It's comprehensive.
We thought when we have this law, everything would be solved. Then we realized, it's not enough to have a law. You have to be with the culture or the attitudes or the norms and systems and with the knowledge.
Very early we discovered our problem is pretty much related to the diversity and the issue of respecting human rights. Acknowledging that human rights are for all. Very soon we started to team up with other groups we thought are also facing discriminations such as women and youth.
For example, youth are asked to do military service when they are 18. But are not allowed to vote in Lebanon. Elderly people too. Any type of differences would be facing barriers when trying to exercise their political rights in their daily life.
We have partnerships that goes back to 2005. We started a campaign to achieve the political right to vote. And dignity and independence. Why do we say independence? Because the barriers are so wide. Physical barriers, communication barriers, cultural barriers.
None of our colleagues who have any kind of disability would be able to exercise their right to vote unless they were supported or helped by others. This means taking away their decisions. So, if I cannot access the place without interventions from others, my independence is threatened.
Also, elderly people are being isolated. And also used when it is time for election and so on. Maybe this year when we had the parliamentarian election it was OK. But I just started.
Anyway, I'll make it brief. What can you say? That we cannot solve any problem or achieve any right for one type of need, without thinking and looking at all the diversity that needs to be reflected when we plan or design or put our policies.
We have created a coalition and joined as a coalition. For example, we have a campaign from civil society that is working to achieve reform at the electoral level. We're part of the civil society movement that's working for democracy and transparency and reform in the country.
We have to be learning always how to work together. How to reflect the smallest needs. You will think it's a small need but it's a big issue for the person who needs it. We have to always act based on human rights. And the idea that human rights are for all.
Nothing is to be prioritized by others, like this is important and this is not. If I ask you what is your priority, everyone says something different. This has to be reflected in the policies and the design.
The commission you mentioned that supervised the election, was on behalf of all civil society. This is important. We need to learn that no one can achieve without thinking inclusively. From now on we need to think and act inclusive. Human rights are actually for all. I think I need to stop here before the time is finished.
Again, I say. Participation and communication from grassroots up is always very important. We never should forget this. I thank you for this. I'm glad to be here with you today. To learn from you and take more and more experiences we can use in other regions. [Applause]
Virginia Atkinson: You brought up two interesting points. One, having inclusive laws is a good first step but not enough. And you weren't there just as a DPO representative but as a representative of civil society. Those are important lesson. Next we'll hear from Yulia from Fight for Right. For sharing inclusion and political rights of young people. She's worked on accessible elections in Ukraine.
Yulia Sachuk: Good morning. There are more than 20 million people with disabilities in Ukraine. More than half are young people. Our voice should be equally important with the same values in democratic societies. The right to elect, stand for election and participate in public life.
A right guaranteed for everyone. There's not information on health in Ukraine. We ask the civil society to implement protection of political rights for people with disabilities. Political rights are set by international agreements and by domestic electoral legislation.
Since 2000 steps have been taken to implement rights. But people with disabilities are too often excluded from participating in decisions. It affects our lives from decision making processes. Enforces barriers to full participation. In 2015 it was identified the actions Ukraine should take to improve the lives of persons with disabilities.
This took into account a national plan with implementation of human rights strategy. It was approved by the president. There are some drafts of laws that include important provisions for political rights of persons with disabilities.
Youth in Ukraine face the same issues as our peers without disabilities. But different barriers. Ignorance leads to non-representation in public life. Girl with disabilities want to participate in the election. More than 70% prefer to vote in the polling station and be independent.
Initiatives are aimed at legislation but also at political rights and opportunities. To exercise them beyond young people with disabilities. As a result of such activities, we can see positive changes and people could take active role in public life.
As candidates in local elections to state bodies. Also as leaders of human rights movements and activist projects.
Research of civic society shows that most young persons with disabilities in Ukraine, more than 70% take part in elections regularly. 3% are never interested in political reasons.
Among the reasons why some young voters with disabilities don't take part in the elections, 50% responded, "I don't believe that I can contribute to the change in political situations."
There is a lack of opportunities to do this independently. We received many responses like, "I can't get to my polling station by myself. No one can help me. I don't know how to participate with my health condition, etc.”
The main reason to choose voting at home is accessibility of polling stations and also physical accessibility of the environment.
The other challenge is informational barriers. For example, limited access to electoral information in braille or electronic format or sign language interpretation or audio description.
Also, members of voting stations and other electoral administration bodies often don't know about the electoral rights of persons with disabilities and about the ways to communicate with them. Political parties and state authority bodies are not interested enough in inclusiveness.
There are differences in levels of interest from all actors of political life and engagement with people in different levels of disability in political life. There are many negative stereotypes concerning people with intellectual disabilities.
Young people with different types of disability from Fight for the Right NGO experienced discrimination during the election process. As a result, we formed dialogues about voting rights with the state authority during the performance.
We also have younger representatives who make recommendations to the State. They ask for election law to comply with the CRPD. We also ask them to consider the different opportunities to provide reasonable accommodation and provide advocacy and education for changing the mindset within society about disability issues.
One of the most important things is including young persons with disabilities in leadership positions in state authorities. Another good practice is mentioned by Virginia Atkinson. It is an informational campaign of our group. In 2017, we organized accessible election to promote the accessibility of the electoral process.
Most of the participants you can see during my presentation say they want to be active and independent and to be really included not only on the paper but really to have the opportunity to be visible and impactful in Ukraine and society. Thank you. [Applause]
Virginia Atkinson: Thank you. It's particularly interesting to learn about the use of theater as a voter education method. You highlighted an important point that young persons with disabilities should be included in leadership roles. They're not just recipients of state aid, but they should be in a leadership position.
Next we'll hear from three different speakers from Pakistan. First, we'll hear from Jawairia Jilani from DFID. She leads their engagement with the election body in Pakistan. She will talk about DFID's global commitment to disability rights.
Jawairia Jilani: Respected chair and panelists, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, I'm humbled and honored to share the stage with such dynamic people who have demonstrated such commitment to ensuring that the rights of persons with disabilities are realized.
These kinds of efforts are big efforts. We need a lot of people demonstrating exceptional and generous leadership. We need a lot of grit and compassion.
I think one of the reasons we're so optimistic about the prospects of tackling the challenges of exclusion and intersectionality is because we have such great leadership.
On stage with me are individuals that not only represent their own personal commitment to change but also represent organizations that are invested in this change.
It is especially encouraging to have leaders who happen to be women and take charge and lead from the front, whether it's my friend from the election commission of Pakistan, etc., it's been a privilege to hear the kind of work you are involved in.
We are expecting to have our Madame ambassador who is tireless in her efforts.
The UK is committed to putting the last first. We prioritize the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people. No one should be denied the opportunity to realize their full potential. No one should have their interests systematically overlooked.
At DFID, we strongly believe everyone has a fair opportunity in life. People who face multiple levels of exclusion will be prioritized. And every person counts and will be counted.
To this end, disability inclusion is a priority for the UK. We know that people with disabilities experience worse outcomes and fewer opportunities than their non-disabled peers across the board. As many are aware, the UK is hosting its first ever global disability summit next month in July.
The summit, in partnership with the government of Kenya and the International Disability Alliance, aims to raise awareness on this neglected issue in international development. Four main themes include stigma and discrimination, inclusion and education, roots to economic empowerment, and harnessing technology and innovation.
Political inclusion will obviously be part and parcel of the agenda at the summit. Persons with disabilities will be at the center of the summit. The International Disability Alliance has been fully involved in the planning.
The government of Kenya is leading by example in developing ambitious commitments. We're pleased to report that progress for the summit is on track. We have secured high-level attendance, including the president of Ecuador, ministries from different countries, heads of UN agencies, international development ministers, etc.
The success of the summit will be seen in the months and years to come. There will be a follow-up process to communicate and report on the commitments made. This is a huge opportunity to change the way we work with rights for persons with disabilities that we should all seize.
We are interested to have your views. Please come to our side event tomorrow at 4:45 in Conference Room C.
Pakistan has come a long way in a short period of time. Progress is being made, but many challenges persist. Poverty, poor health indicators, stagnated economic growth conspire against the reform efforts of members of civil societies, entrepreneurs, etc.
The challenge is ever higher for the vulnerable members of society. Democracy in Pakistan is still very young. The general election in July 2018 marked only the second civilian-to-civilian transfer of power in the country.
As these processes take root, there is renewed hope that those with disabilities will effectively participate in democratic processes including voting and holding the government to account for promises made.
The disability agenda has been kept alive in Pakistan. The program looks at a range of technical issues to help improve the electoral process. In the background, Pakistan has had a long-standing commitment of political inclusion of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities.
Our work in Pakistan has focused on ensuring that women and persons with disabilities are politically empowered and they are able to participate in democratic and electoral processes. Through our partners, we've worked to support the election commission of Pakistan for a more inclusive electoral process.
Integrating persons with disabilities and women into this work has been instrumental in expanding the inclusion agenda within this election management body. Some key achievements over the past years include dialogues with DPOs and the election commission, especially on international disability day to commemorate and champion the agenda.
The establishment of a disability and electoral working group was established a few years back with DPOs and government officials. It's a unique platform that allows us to look at intersectionality and tackle those problems.
Pakistan is a country where 12 million women are out of the electoral rolls and are still struggling to be part of the election process.
They are doubly disadvantaged with disability and this becomes a graver issue. I won't go into too many details because I have a colleague from the election commission and another from STEP to talk about multiple identities including those of transgender.
There is a push for more data to include policy and practice. And there's also exploring of assistive technologies helping to facilitate political inclusion.
To conclude, these may seem like small achievements, but none would be possible without the strong partnerships in Pakistan. This includes the push of DPOs like STEP and the technical expertise brought in by UNDP and other international partners. And there's also the championing of this agenda by the election committee of Pakistan.
They have taken forward many of these initiatives. This is encouraging as we build responsible and accountable institutions in Pakistan. We are proud to have been part of this partnership. We look forward to doing more. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]
Virginia Atkinson: Thank you. We are very happy to see DFID's commitment to disability rights. It's clear that Pakistan has been prioritizing this for many years.
Next we'll hear from Muhammad Atif Sheikh, the Executive Director of the Special Talent Exchange Program (STEP) in Pakistan. He is also honorary chairperson of the South Asia Disability Forum. His organization has been very active. We'll hear more about that now.
Muhammad Atif Sheikh: First, let me thank the participants. In Pakistan, the population of persons with disabilities is 2.49%. But according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 10-12% persons with disabilities.
They are not able to cast in vote. To address this issue of the gap in numbers, we found there are still uncounted populations of the country. The election process takes it seriously. There's a set of questions being incorporated.
The election commission is running a campaign to count women. Through this question we found the data soon. At least the Washington Group of questions. These questions were adopted and we are very hopeful that people with disabilities will be counted very soon.
Disability movements were started in the 1980s in the country but it was more focused on the charity model. In 2006, the rights model was adopted. We had a national consultation of stakeholders on why people with disabilities are not visible in the electoral process or in the Senate.
I contributed to the conversation. In following years, disability was included in the commission of Pakistan. They decided to make electoral processes accessible. With the organizations, we work together.
Particularly working with those young people who were excluded from the campaigns because of inaccessibility of voter campaigns. And inaccessibility of the polling stations. We adopted a holistic approach between the election pieces at the polling station. We worked on an inclusive worker education campaigns such as sign language and services for blind people. And we used social media. We selected DPOs across the country and trained their leaders on disability so they can talk to the political leaders and candidates in their campaigns.
At the same time, we conducted a study on leading political parties. It was not surprising that disability was not included in the rights. They trained these leaders to include disability. When disability leaders were trained and election commissioners were trained, we connected them. They had dialogues and meetings with political parties.
While we concluded the project, the election committee established an electoral working group on gender and disability. But somehow we managed to include them. It's not a quick fix, it's just a start to including people with disabilities in the electoral process.
One achievement we'll see in the July elections this year, is the first time we'll see a young woman with a disability and a young male wheelchair user contesting. They are not just persons with disabilities. They are contesting for general rights. Briefly I want to give you a picture of how people with disabilities can be included.
It's not a one-way process, it has to be holistic. We may need a decade or more for persons with disability to be included in electoral process.
In the coming election we adopted one more strategy. We had 18 people observe the elections. They were in teams to address the disability perspective. This is what we've done in Pakistan. We are taking this learning power and putting it to the next election as much as possible. Thank you very much.
Virginia Atkinson: Thank you. It's interesting how you connect DPOs with political parties, observer groups, and more. And the importance of being consistent.
Next we have a representative from the election committee of Pakistan. Nighat Siddique, who's worked in policy development, implementation and research, and on gender, inclusion of other marginalized groups. The electoral commission of Pakistan and their work is what she'll talk about.
Nighat Siddique: Thank you for the honor to talk about Pakistan's inclusive electoral process. Pakistan is gearing up for the next general election in July next year.
They are trying for free, fair elections. Inclusive elections in all sectors of society. So people can use their right to vote. The Article talks about persons with disabilities in public and private life. It highlights that state parties should let persons with disabilities enjoy rights on an equal basis.
I'd like to inform you of what Pakistan has done in administrative reforms. Pakistan has come up with the election act in 2017. I'll discuss it shortly. There are only 7 sessions in the act. It focuses on several layers for the transgender community, etc.
In Pakistan people tend not to come out to vote. Now if the turnout is less than 10%, the commission may presume that orders have been restrained from casting a vote.
Section 47 says that if information in disaggregated data is more than 10%, then measures are taken. Section 91 says turnout of women voters should be disaggregated. There must be a report on voter turnout. Section 93 offers facilities and that persons with disabilities can vote on home. Section 205 says that by law, it makes it mandatory for parties to allocate 5% of seats to women as candidates. After the 2013 general election, the general commissioner came up with 89 for women and transgender in the electoral process.
We have a gender and disability electoral working group. They work with civil society-- women, transgender, and minorities at the grassroots level. This makes the process inclusive for gender debates. This process is set up for the micro and macro level.
Especially for the grassroots level. To engage civil society organizations, this group was set up in 2015 to support voter registration.
This group has representatives from communities representing people with disability, transgender, and women. We have this group in Islamabad. They meet on monthly basis to discuss difficulties the community faces in political rights.
All 137 districts have voter registration committees. In these committees, there are multi-stakeholder engagements with the media, political parties, and local representatives. This leads to greater inclusion in the electoral process. There's a big gap between men and women voters. When it started, there was a female identity card. In the absence of a national identity card, women could not vote.
Out of this campaign, we were able to register over 1 million women in five districts. This was a collaboration of government and civil society. Because of this success story, we will continue this campaign for the elections in 2018.
Gender sensitive trainings of polling staff highlights the steps required to give preferential treatment to persons with disabilities, transgender, and women. 8 million polling staff have been trained for 85,000 polling stations.
We have disabled persons friendly polling schemes, which are also gender sensitive polling schemes. Stations are made accessible to persons with disabilities by building ramps outside all stations with stairs. We have a code of conduct for polling officials and security officials.
In the end, I would like to thank UCID, DFID, and other civil society organizations for their unending support which helped us take these measures to make the election process more sensitive and more inclusive. Thank you. [Applause]
Virginia Atkinson: Thank you so much. It's really exciting to hear from a government stakeholder in particular about both legislative initiatives you've taken as well as policy measures. And you're not just working at the level of the headquarters, but the working group is trickling down to the local level as well.
I'd like to open the floor for questions. Please say your name, your country, and if you have an organization affiliation.
Speaker from the audience: I'm Derek from American University and the Institute on Disability and Public Policy. I have one specific question for our colleague from the government. This is a fantastic structure and model for how you advance this process.
To what degree have you captured those lessons and are sharing them with other countries in the region and around the world? It is such a good model. I know you're doing part of that here today, but what are other ways?
Second, could you talk more about the monthly meetings of the committee and the mechanics of how that works? It sounds fascinating.
Virginia Atkinson: A couple more questions?
Speaker from the audience: I'm Bailey from the Disability Rights Fund. Thank you to the panelists. That was helpful input on this topic. We have a number of grantees who do quite a bit of work in this area.
One of my questions is around independence and objectivity in working on election campaigns on increasing political participation in voting processes. One of the things that DPOs often push for is to have a certain percentage of persons with disabilities in office.
How do you maintain your objectivity and not aligning yourself with a particular political party or candidate? Sometimes that can be tricky. It can take you down a path that can be hard to separate yourself from when you need to.
I was really interested to hear about the intersectionality elements and a cross-sector coalition. What specific measures helped you overcome that?
Virginia Atkinson: Two more questions before we turn back to the panel.
Speaker from the audience: I come from Kenya. I would like to hear from Pakistan and Lebanon. With all of the efforts that have been put in place and the laws, have you seen persons with disabilities or young persons with disabilities being elected in the political arena?
I think having laws and policies is not enough. In Kenya, we have very good laws addressing gender equality and the rights of minorities. For this reason, we have seen women, last year in our election that has never been done in the world, women are climbing up the ladder.
Three women were elected as governors in three counties. But the situation for women with disabilities is different. Before the elections, we had quite a number of women who had been nominated by political parties in different counties for different positions.
But in parliament we only have a gentleman with a disability. No single woman has been elected. I think we need more than policies and laws.
After seeing that, we have worked with IFIS Kenya. We have developed a policy document that we will use with the political class to persuade them to give us more spaces. Thank you.
Speaker from the audience: Good morning. I'm the general secretary of a DPO from Bangladesh. My question is for the Pakistani team. I have two questions: Do you have any policy for persons with disabilities and their rights that are related to the election commission rules and regulation? Secondly, the last speaker mentioned that 85,000 polling agents have been trained. Who has provided this training? Is it provided by the election commission or Pakistani government? How many inclusive voting centers are in Pakistan?
Virginia Atkinson: Great. Thank you. Nighat Siddique, there were a couple questions asked specifically to you before we turn it over to the rest of the panel.
Nighat Siddique: We'll start with dissemination fruitful information and the prospectuses we are working on. We are trying this. We intend to use this in other forums like the disability summit in London. We will share our best practices there also.
The next question was on monthly meetings of gender and disability working group. We meet on a monthly basis. We are more than 97 civil society organizations working as members in the capital and all four provinces.
Our core criteria is that the organizations should be working with women and persons with disabilities and transgender and minorities at the grassroot level.
There should be the indigenous organizations for the community. We map them out for who is doing what and where so we're not overlapping. Then we dish out activities. Everybody in different areas highlight the area we have. Then we go for that.
The next month, we go into different schools and involve youth. Everybody does the same activity all across the country. Then we have street theaters. We have dissemination materials that we design. We discuss it and then design it accordingly.
We involve different segments of the society to these in consultation with these organizations. These civil society organizations are not only members. We are in continuous consultation with them. It's a two-way information sharing from us to them, and then it comes back from them to us.
I discussed seven sections of the law. Generally, the law is enacted and then no one knows about it. With this group and through civil society working at the grass-roots level, we are trying to disseminate the information that persons with disabilities should have for accessibility to polling stations and where the stations are located.
We're trying to send out information to these communities through these civil society organizations. If you want to give me your emails, I can share activities with you.
For a policy document, if it includes persons with disabilities as my friend from Bangladesh asked, I just mentioned we have a 5-year strategic plan. It focuses on persons with disabilities. There are different objectives in this plan.
To a large extent, we have worked on these objectives already. They talk about steps to take for including persons with disabilities, transgender, etc., in our electoral process. Who trains the staff? The election commission has its own trainers.
We follow the cascade model with core support from our development partners like UCID and DFID, UNPD, etc. We have our own lead trainers and master trainers. We do get help from the government of Pakistan.
Their education and health department officers join us. But we do it ourselves. The manual we have for the trainings is a gender sensitive manual. We have a documentary on electoral processes. It is disseminated to everyone through these trainings. That is also gender sensitive.
We do more exercises with our trainers and the trainees telling them how to give preferential treatment to persons with disabilities if they come to a polling station, how to give preferential treatment to transgender community if they come to the polling station and to not force them to stand in lines. They can cast their votes and then leave.
Virginia Atkinson: Thank you.
Sylvana Lakkis: In response to the question about persons with disabilities succeeding as candidates: As I mentioned briefly, the most important issue is the campaign itself, which always includes leadership training and capacity building and sensitizing persons with disabilities to hold onto their rights and to exercise them.
On the level of civil society coalition mechanism, from this, we are encouraging everyone to take action. The result is that I think we can stay at the level of municipality. Yes, we have people with disabilities, women and youth that succeeded to win in the municipality.
But not for the parliament. It is still difficult. There are still a lot of challenges for women with disabilities and women in general. Just now we had an election in Lebanon. Out of 120, only four were women. The rest are men. We still have challenges and barriers.
Virginia Atkinson: Thank you. Jawairia Jilani, did you want to answer the question about young persons with disabilities?
Jawairia Jilani: Around the representation of young persons with disabilities, we have the same situation. As local state authorities, advisors and consultants, they are included. But at the national level, the number of young persons with disabilities is not very sufficient.
We also think that the issue is leadership, education, and interest from state authorities and political actors at different levels.
Sylvana Lakkis: I'd like to answer a question that was asked about how to deal with political parties during the campaign. What we usually do is we have an agenda that demands from every candidate from this political party to adopt into their program.
We monitor their program and language. We use the media to make sure they respect everyone and reflect the needs of people in the programs. We do our best to make them announce the position before the election and we follow it after the election. We can make it, we have long experience around that.
Virginia Atkinson: Yes. There's also the question about remaining natural.
Muhammad Atif Sheikh: First with political parties. I agree that was the biggest problem. When we sensitize the leaders of political parties. I'll share something interesting, we develop disability policy. It was difficult. We have adopted a strategy for that.
We've identified disability focal points in all the parties. When there's a campaign we invite those same persons as the focal point and to neutralize the approach. The point of intersectionality: whatever the issue, on gender, aging, transgender, we have people with disabilities who are responsible for this issue. They attend those meetings and now we see a change.
Whatever is going on, they talk about disability as well. There's people with disability sitting among them. We're on a conclusion that, a seat on the table is a solution. You must have a seat at the table.
Jawairia Jilani: The professor unfortunately left but I wanted to hear suggestions on how we can best disseminate the practices. What kind of forums exist. At the disability summit in the UK in July we'll share that but we are open to suggestions.
Sylvana Lakkis: As a suggestion. There's one week or two weeks for you to include.
Nighat Siddique: The Ambassador won't be able to join. Sorry for that.
Virginia Atkinson: Thank you everyone for an interesting panel. I learned interesting ways of being deliberately intersectional to make sure people with disabilities are included in political life. A couple people had questions hopefully we can continue the conversation in the hallway.
[End of panel]