Participation of People With Disabilities in the Decision-Making Process in Nepal: Rhetorics and Realities in a Politically Changed Context

Participation of People With Disabilities in the Decision-Making Process in Nepal: Rhetorics and Realities in a Politically Changed Context

Obindra B. Chand, Sudeep Uprety
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7304-4.ch013
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Despite the significant social and political changes over the last five decades in Nepal, persons with disabilities (PwDs) still face challenges in their everyday lives. Lack of meaningful participation of PwDs in leadership and decision-making processes, social stigma, discrimination, and inaccessible physical facilities have excluded PwDs from freely exercising fundamental rights such as voting. Mass media and civil society occasionally raise issues and problems faced by PwDs. Equally, the dearth of data regarding disability has created further challenges to policymakers and planners to understand the diversity of PwD issues at large. Based on a qualitative study, this chapter aims to explore the participation of PwDs particularly in the different phases of policy formulation (such as consultation and participation) at the municipal level and calls for crucial actions for ensuring meaningful participation of PwDs in democratic processes in Nepal in the current federal context.
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Globally, ensuring participation of people with disabilities (PwDs) in political and social spheres has been a critical concern. Particularly, it has received global attention after the introduction of United Nations Convention on Rights of the Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in 2006, which has acknowledged disability as a human rights and development agenda (United Nations Enable, 2020a). Lately, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have emphasized issues and concerns of PwDs in its goals and indicators and have considered disaggregated data on disability as one of the key areas (UN, nd). However, at practical level, PwDs across the world still face challenges and barriers in many areas of their lives, including participating in political and social lives for several reasons. They include lack of education and financial resources; stigma/discrimination and negative social attitudes; inaccessible physical and public infrastructure (Virendrakumar et al., 2018; Jolley et al., 2017; Sackey, 2015). PwDs encounter socio-cultural and physical/structural barriers at multiple levels while engaging in political activities (Opokua et al., 2016). For this chapter, by political activities, we (authors) mean wide range of core activities related to politics, good governance and wider democracy such as casting vote in the election(s) freely and independently as well as actively participating in decision-making practices and processes at different levels of government in our country (Nepal). But, for several reasons we discussed above, PwDs are excluded from actively engaging in leadership roles and political and social spheres. This has led to lower turnover of PwDs for voting and they hardly hold the political positions in their respective countries (Price, 2018; Schur et al., 2002; Sackey, 2015).

The participation of particular groups of PwDs such as unemployed and elderly in voting was even lower in the wider spectrum of PwDs. Further, the participation of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities was not meaningful, rather their participation was tokenistic (Schur et al., 2002; Beckwith et al., 2016). The United Nations Department of Economic Social Affairs (UNDESA) states that “participation in political and public life is a critical element of socially inclusive development, along with the realization of human rights”. (UNDESA, 2016, p, 3). Conversely, the ground reality of PwDs is strikingly different and more poignant in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) including Nepal (Price, 2018; IFES & NFDN, 2018). This population is substantial, over a billion worldwide, and their numbers in the Asia and Pacific region is approximately 690 million (WHO &the World Bank, 2011; ESCAP, 2018). The total number of PwDs in Nepal is approximately over half a million (NPC & CBS, 2014). The number of PwDs is not only substantial but it is diverse with untold stories and unexplored experiences globally, nationally and locally yet these have not received adequate attention in the realm of research, scholarship, development practice and policy landscape, particularly in sub-national level (in case of Nepal) for several reasons including obliviousness towards the subject matter.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Disability: A physical or mental condition that limits a person's movements, senses, or activities. Based on the types and degrees of disability the government of Nepal has categorized into 10 types and four categories (mild, moderate, severe, and profound).

Meaningful Participation: Active and effective engagement of the people in the decision-making process in different tiers of the governments for disability-inclusive policies, programs, and interventions.

Media: A communication channel through which we disseminate various forms of information such as news, music, movies, education, among others.

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs): A wide range of organizations, including community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), labor unions, indigenous groups, professional associations, and foundations.

Direct Democracy: A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives, which works for good governance, ensuring rights of vulnerable and marginalized groups.

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