In late January 2017, RightsNow! technical expert and IFES Senior Access and Inclusion Specialist, Virginia Atkinson, traveled to Yerevan, Armenia to collaborate with RightsNow! partners on several initiatives. These efforts supported government stakeholders in implementing inclusive electoral laws and policies.
In addition, RightsNow! partners assisted disabled person’s organizations (DPO) and civil society stakeholders in advocating for increased access to the political process ahead of the April 2nd elections.
The visit was coordinated by AGATE Center for Women with Special Needs President, Karine Grigoryan, and AGATE coordinator, Gayane Grigoryan with planning assistance from RightsNow! participants and disability leaders Suren Maghakyan, Vardine Grigoryan, and Zara Batoyan.
In workshops and meetings during the week, participants identified eight key areas for strategic engagement on political rights of people with disabilities:
- Assistive Devices/Technology
- Legal Framework
- Political Participation
- Social Services
The participants also worked with the Central Election Commission to provide quick reference materials for poll worker training on disability inclusion. The convening of DPOs, civil society organizations, and lawyers, also led to collaboratively drafting a policy platform – the first in Armenia.
Member of Parliament Candidates Event
As an outcome of the visit, the participants planned a public event in Yerevan on March 18, 2017 organized by AGATE Center, for candidates for Parliament to sign on to the policy platform. At this Candidate's event, 55 people attended and each party representative gave a ten minute presentation on their party’s plans to address disability issues in Armenia.
Eight of the nine political parties signed the disability policy platform created during the RightsNow! technical assistance visit.
Also attending were representatives from NGOs, political party members, international NGO representatives, and U.S. officials. The event was covered by four television stations, in newspapers, and on social media.
The RightsNow! project aims to strengthen DPOs, build sustainable coalitions, and advance disability rights through enforcement of legislation and other strategies. Read more about the project on the Global Disability RightsNow! website, and follow MIUSA and RightsNow! progress on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #RightsNow.