Civil Society Organizations making concrete impact at grassroots level
Empowering civil society as an actor of change is an integral part of the United Nations Development Programme’s approach to promote accountable governance in Rwanda. Accountable governance is one of the key pillars of Rwanda’s Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy II (2013 -2018).
To strengthen the capacity of civil society, the One UN Rwanda/ UNDP, and the Government of Rwanda launched a Joint Program called “Strengthening Civil Society Organizations for Responsive and Accountable Governance in Rwanda,” in 2014. To date, 45 CSOs working in a wide range of areas have received support under the programme. In 2016, the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) joined the programme as a partner, providing funding to 3 CSOs.
Following a competitive selection process, Tubibe Amahoro was one of the CSOs chosen to receive a SDC grant (USD 30 000) to support its work in Karongi District. On 25th and 26th October 2016, a delegation from UNDP and Swiss Development Cooperation visited Tubibe Amahoro Association with a view to monitor progress and observe some of the work being done in the community.
The field visit delegation talking with Tubibe Amahoro Association beneficiaries
Tubibe Amahoro Association (TAA) is a grassroots civil society organization focusing on citizen participation and accountability. The delegation’s visit offered the opportunity to directly experience the impact being made through the supported project “Citizen Participation in DDP (District Development Plan) formulation, implementation and monitoring”.
Arriving at the Tubibe Amahoro Association’s premises, the delegation was welcomed by the Executive Secretary, Pierre Celestin Kabano who presented the vision and mission of the Association as well as their achievements in supporting local communities in their demand for accountability from their local leaders.
“The project supported by UNDP, through the funding of the Swiss Development Cooperation, arose from a prevailing concern that Rwandan citizens do not show interest, and are not yet sufficiently organized to actively and effectively engage with policy makers at the local level. At the same time, local officials may not yet always inform the public in detail on the use of public resources allocated to economic development and poverty reduction,” Kabano said.
Kabano further explained that good governance can only be achieved in a sustainable way when citizens and local leaders interact with each other, and with a clear understanding of each other’s role and responsibility. The active consultation and participation of citizens in determining district and sector priorities can improve the ownership of the targeted communities which will lead to improved policy interventions and reduce poverty. Similarly, the ability of citizens to hold the local authorities to account is an important element of good governance.
The team got to learn that the project focuses on training community animators on the methodology of Community Scorecards. Community Animators have been trained on Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA), and advocacy. In addition, the Community Animators are responsible for ensuring that community meetings take place on a regular basis.
Following the identification of needs of the community at village and cell level, interface meetings at sector level are organized by local authorities with the population. These interface meetings offer the space for dialogue between policy makers and grassroots community members. The UNDP/Swiss delegation witnessed an interface meeting held between Local leaders, including the JADF (Joint Action Development Forum) officer of Karongi District, and local citizens at Gitesi sector, Gasharu cell.
During the debate citizens (right holders) voiced their concerns regarding several critical issues identified in the Community Score Card that needed to be addressed by local authorities (duty bearers/service providers). The identified needs related to lack of access to electricity, availability of nursery schools, clean water and road infrastructure. In response, the local leaders acknowledged that the issues raised by the citizens were very relevant and concrete follow-up actions are already being undertaken.
“I thank Tubibe Amahoro and our leaders for organizing community debates. It is now possible here in Gasharu to have direct conversations with the local authorities. We let them know where there is room for improvement, they listen and let us know where we could support as well,” said Anitha Mukamana, a resident of Gasharu cell. “These debates really empowered us women to stand up for our rights and as a consequence, our lives have changed in a positive way. For example, many women here were thought to run cooperatives and businesses and we have also learned to freely express our opinions. All thanks to these community debates and the role played by Tubibe Amahoro,” Mukamana concluded.
These community debates offer space for both citizens and local leaders to discuss how public policies are affecting their lives. The topics are suggested by citizens. On average, these community debates attract about 300 citizens, with an equal participation of women and men at each event.