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#YouthInAction – Empowering Inclusive Democracy: The Inspiring Journey of Rosemarie Ramitt

Rosemarie Ramitt is a visually impaired disability-rights advocate in Guyana. She works at the intersection of gender, disability, and indigeneity with the Guyana Council of Organisations for Persons with Disabilities.

In the Education sector, she is the Acting Head of the Department for the Ministry of Education Resource Unit for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Her work includes teaching children who are blind and visually impaired, training of general education teachers, integrating children who are blind into general education classrooms, and developing disability-specific curriculum for children who are blind.

At the national level, she works to empower and equalise opportunities for people with disabilities who are doubly marginalised such as women with disabilities, indigenous persons with disabilities, and youth with disabilities. This is done through capacity building, training on their rights, employment/skills training, and Civic Education training. 

Rosemarie has led a number of projects in Guyana, including “Combatting Disinformation” during the Local Government Elections 2023, Mapping of indigenous youth with disabilities, Voter Education for youth with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities, and the first Observer Mission on Elections Access in Guyana.

Most recently, she served as a member of the Youth Advisory Group of the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS), and was nominated by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) for the Kofi Annan NextGen Democracy Prize 2023, where she was among the top 10 finalists.

Barriers to Political Rights for Young People with Disabilities

While we continue to advance young people’s political participation globally, it is important to also recognise that young people are not a homogenous group and that some young people, such as young people with disabilities, face additional barriers to their political participation. 

In civic and political spaces, people with disabilities are not considered viable actors and often overlooked as potential voters, election observers, or candidates, by political parties and elections officials. As a result, there is a lack of investment in the strengthening of their capacities, a lack of leadership opportunities, and few opportunities for young people with disabilities to serve as decision-makers. The historical stigma and discrimination faced by young people with disabilities, a combination of ageism and ableism, prevent them from being represented in spaces where their voices ought to be heard.

Compounding these barriers to representation and participation, young people with disabilities also continue to face barriers to accessibility, such as buildings without ramps or elevators, voting materials not available in accessible formats such as Braille, and limited voter and civic education. This is perhaps the biggest barrier that hinders the active political participation of young people with disabilities.

Tackling the Barriers towards Inclusive Democracy

As a young person with a disability, a young Indigenous person, and an activist in my home country of Guyana, I know first-hand the impact young people with disabilities can have on creating stronger and more inclusive democracies. Through my leadership with the Guyana Council of Organisations for Persons with Disabilities (GCOPD), and in coordination with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), I led a project mapping young Indigenous people with disabilities in Guyana to better assess the challenges they face in their civic and political participation; the report generated through this project has since informed advocacy efforts that promote the meaningful inclusion of young Indigenous people with disabilities. During local government elections in Guyana in June 2023, I organised and led the first-ever observer mission on elections access in partnership with GCOPD and IFES. 40 young people were deployed across the country to evaluate the accessibility of over 590 polling stations. The findings from the mission will inform future elections and make elections more accessible to all voters. I have some recommendations based on my work:

  • To States: adopt and implement cohort-level commitments. States should adopt the commitments outlined by the Youth Democracy Cohort and Disability Rights Cohort that encourage governments and election management bodies (EMBs) to promote electoral access and to make electoral and political processes more inclusive.
  • To EMBs: conduct staff training on disabilities rights. EMBs need to be trained on the rights of persons with disabilities which are outlined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. These trainings will ensure that elections staff and EMBs respect the rights of persons with disabilities and encourage them to promote inclusive elections.
  • To CSOs: engage young people with disabilities through civic education training. Young people with disabilities need to be educated about their democratic rights and their political responsibilities. Giving young people with disabilities safe spaces in which to learn about how they can engage civically and politically can support long-term democratic participation.

And finally, to young people – as you engage during the upcoming Summit for Democracy and beyond, I encourage you to reflect on the following questions:

1. When I am encouraging young people to exercise their democratic right to cast a vote, how does the message reach young people with disabilities?
2. When I take the responsibility of voting on Election Day, are young people with disabilities able to access the polling station? Are they able to independently cast their ballot?
3. When I look at myself as a leader, do I believe that young people with disabilities can also be leaders?

Special Advisor on International Disability Rights at the United States Department of State, Sara Minkara, encourages the global community to rethink the traditional narrative around disability – instead of “nothing about us, without us,” she asserts, “nothing without us.”

By celebrating the diversity of the global youth population, and promoting their inclusion in democratic processes, it is necessary to also promote the inclusion of the disability community and, together, advance everyone’s civic and political rights so democracy is inclusive of all voices, opinions, and perspectives.

Commitment #27 Designing and Delivering Voter and Civic Education Programs

“…with a focus on the unique experiences of young people who are also women, people with disabilities, LGBTQI+ people, Indigenous Peoples, or ethnic or religious minorities.”

Since 2018, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) has supported young people with disabilities as leaders in their communities through its global civic education program, Engaging a New Generation for Accessible Governance and Elections (ENGAGE). The program, conducted in seven countries and one autonomous region, won a Zero Project Innovative Practice Award in 2023. ENGAGE increases participants’ knowledge of their democratic rights and responsibilities and shares ways to engage in civic and political life. The ENGAGE program also seeks to connect young people with disabilities to civil society leaders, government and elected officials, and electoral management bodies (EMBs), and provides ongoing support to program alumni through internships and implementing community engagement projects.

Addressing the barriers that often prevent young people with disabilities’ participation in public life, ENGAGE has provided an opportunity for many alumni to find employment, including through working with EMBs, as poll workers, and with organisations of persons with disabilities. One ENGAGE alumna successfully ran for an elected seat in her local city council. As an Indigenous ENGAGE participant from Guyana shared, “Being an active wheelchair-user, my takeaway from this training is that this will change my decision making and the actions I will be taking. With what I have learned from this workshop, I have more knowledge and have an action plan to change the lives of people with disabilities in my region. This is going to impact the lives of the people I know.


These are only a handful of examples of the positive impact that civic education and voting access for young people can have on democracy. Join the YDC in calling for youth to be supported in voting this year by sharing the commitment that resonates with the issues in your community, and by showcasing your own success stories with the hashtag #YouthInAction.