The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated barriers faced by women with disabilities such as discrimination and lack of access to decision-making processes.
Recognizing that advocacy skills are critical to responding to COVID-19 challenges, the Pacific Disability Forum (PDF) and International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) conducted a series of virtual trainings as part of “Power to Persuade 2.0: Empowering Women with Disabilities to Influence Public Policy” in fall 2020. Women with disabilities also drafted a regional policy platform, which identified access to health care, accessible information and social protection as the three main priorities for the Pacific region’s COVID-19 response. The policy platform was updated from a version created during “Power to Persuade 1.0” in 2019.
Following “Power to Persuade 2.0,” participants carried out in-person “Power to Persuade” trainings in Fiji, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tonga. They developed country-specific advocacy plans that enable women with disabilities to advocate for parts of the policy platform according to their country context. Following the in-person sessions, IFES and PDF met with representatives from each country to review and discuss the advocacy plans.
In the spring 2021, PDF and IFES conducted a workshop on “Strategic Communications for Advocacy” with disabled people’s organizations from Fiji, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tonga. The virtual sessions allowed participants to build skills to develop clear, impactful, innovative messages around the policy platform and their advocacy plans.
On June 23-24, 2021, PDF and IFES will unite women with disabilities and regional journalists in a “Media Empowering Disability Inclusion and Access” (MEDIA) workshop. The workshop will be an opportunity for women with disabilities to learn about the media’s role, conduct practice interviews using the advocacy messaged developed during the strategic communications workshop and highlight their successes advocating for the implementation of the policy platform. It will also provide an opportunity for mainstream journalists to learn inclusive reporting techniques.