Decades of conflict have caused widespread physical disabilities among Afghan citizens. Very little support is available, job opportunities are scarce, and marginalization is commonplace. Consequently, people with disabilities risk exclusion from the political process due to a lack of access to information, legitimate channels to voice complaints, and methods of communicating with political candidates.
To promote increased access to the electoral process for all Afghan citizens, Internews’ Afghanistan Capacity for Media and Elections (ACME) program sponsored citizen journalism training courses at Anaar multimedia centers across the country. In 2011, Internews established the network of centers, which provide computer and Internet access to Afghans in four locations around the country, to help link Afghans to each other and to the rest of the world.
The multimedia center in Jalalabad, Nangarhar, is hosted by Afghan Amputee Bicyclists for Rehabilitation and Recreation, a local organization. The center facilitates access for all local residents, including those with physical disabilities, to citizen journalism training, including lessons in typing, Internet usage, blogging, and social media. The facilities are free of charge, and include female trainers and women-only days.
Following a social media workshop, 23-year-old Saddad, who said he would be unable to afford Internet access without the centers, established his own online blog to discuss issues related to the elections. “The Anaar center courses make me feel like I can contribute to the elections in the same way as people that are not disabled,” he said. “I am grateful for the training, it was very useful.”
Through his blog, Saddad has been able to share his views and connect with a wide variety of people. His next step is to introduce a multimedia component to his blog, including video clips pertaining to the elections.
“Every Afghan over 18 has the right to vote in the elections,” he said. “And we must vote. The elections can bring peace and unity to the country.”
ACME is funded by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.