Quest for Political Inclusivity: Enablers and Barriers for Political Participation for Persons with Disabilities in Tanzania
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ABSTRACT: Political participation is a fundamental aspect of democratic governance, the rule of law, social inclusion and human rights approaches aimed at eliminating marginalization and discrimination. However, despite the opportunities offered by current political dispensation and legal framework for inclusive political participation, persons with disabilities still remain politically marginalised in many developing countries, including Tanzania. This paper examines enablers and barriers for political participation of persons with disabilities in Tanzania using the relational model of disability. The paper draws on empirical qualitative data collected through qualitative in-depth interviews and case stories in Dar es Salaam and Morogoro regions in Tanzania, and analysed through qualitative content analysis. The qualitative analysis shows the enablers for political participation included improving education levels, activism, community outreach interventions, changing community perceptions about persons with disabilities, advocacy drives, capacity building, increased advocacy by civil society organisations and enabling constitutional and legal framework. The barriers to effective political participation are lack of education, lack of motivation, lack of funding, lack of resources, faulty perceptions about political processes, disempowerment, faulty community perceptions about the health and mental ability of persons with disabilities, lack of community confidence in the ability of persons with disabilities and lack of support from political parties. These factors at personal, community and institutional levels interact with individual‟s health conditions, translating into a social pathology, thus, hindering their full and effective participation. It is concluded that most persons with disabilities are still vulnerable in personal, social and political spheres. Thus, there is a need for different actors to strengthen capacity building of persons with disabilities through mass media and advocacy campaigns to improve their political participation, and political parties should be challenged to mainstream disability in their constitutions, rules and regulations.