On the road to empower civil society organizations

Jun 1, 2015

Photo: UNDP-RWANDA/ Alice Kayibanda

Spending years in a prison while I knew I was innocent was the most terrible period of my life. Thanks to the help and support received by the “Association Rwandaise pour la Défense des droits de l’Homme (A.R.D.H.O)” my innocence was proven and I could be released from the prison”, testified a former Gacaca convict in front of representatives of the Government of Rwanda, One UN Rwanda and several other members of the Program Steering Committee, which held its last meeting on 20 May 2015 in Musanze district.  

This is just one of many success stories which illustrate the concrete impact, day by day, of the several projects implemented by Rwandan civil society organizations supported by the ONE UN Rwanda and the Government of Rwanda. As the implementation of all projects is on-going, the members of the Program Steering Committee paid a visit to projects in Rulindo, Burera, Musanze and Gasabo districts.

The One UN Rwanda and the Government of Rwanda launched a Joint Program to strengthening national civil society organizations in 2014, the very first of its kind. “We are strongly committed to continue supporting civil society in Rwanda and it is very encouraging to already see some positive results in such a short time. During this field visit, we have been able to witness the concrete impact of the work done by civil society a organization, which is truly impressive, said Mr. Lamin M Manneh, UN Resident Coordinator. In Rwanda, the number of national civil society organizations has tripled in recent years. Many organizations are still very young and face several challenges including the lack of technical capacities and financial sustainability.

At the same time, Rwandan civil society organizations have shown great resilience and innovation to overcome these challenges and is becoming stronger, step by step. Thanks to the support of the One UN Rwanda, we have been able to better support our civil society organizations, which is becoming stronger day by day”, reaffirmed Professor Anastase Shyaka, CEO of the Rwanda Governance Board.

During the first open competition, 26 national civil society organizations were awarded a grant to support their development projects in the area of governance. About one USD million  was provided to directly support Rwandan civil society organizations. All projects are being implemented and are on track. Several of the supported organizations were struggling to find resources, also due to the fact they really operate at community level and are relatively young.

The supported projects are addressing the real needs of the Rwandan people by focusing on gender based violence, participatory governance, the situation of domestic workers, the rights of persons with disabilities, civic education to cite only a few of many themes.

This program does not only provide direct financial support but also focuses on hands-on capacity building on strategic areas such as human rights based approach, gender mainstreaming, advocacy and results-based management.

Furthermore, it also invests in important research activities such as a national CSOs mapping exercise and a new edition of the Civil Society Barometer. A feasibility study will also be undertaken in the coming weeks to analyze the feasibility of setting up an electronic software facilitating CSOs registration process.

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