We have an update for you on our project activities to let you know what we’ve been up to and how the project has changed people’s lives. The participants have been so enthusiastic about the project. They are so grateful to FoE-Ghana and the EU, and always have more positive stories any time we visit them.
They’ve been visiting their DAs to demand their rights, and their efforts are paying off. Some of the most severely deprived communities have now got potable water and sanitation facilities through their DAs. They’ve been asking us to extend our radio programmes because of their effectiveness in educating communities about their rights to water and sanitation.
The community score cards gave interesting yet worrying results about the severe lack of service provision in rural marginalised communities. The education and discussions around DAs’ budgets has helped communities and Assembly people to realise how important it is for them to attend their DA’s budget meetings and ensure their communities’ needs are heard and addressed.
The project has also resulted in some communities improving their local area by becoming Open Defecation Free (ODF) and Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) communities.The main activities we’ve carried out in the Volta Region and Northern Region are summarized below…
1. Training Workshop on gathering communities’ opinions of development priorities and monitoring DAs’ development projects. Some commented they have tried to monitor DA projects in the past but the contractors doing the work didn’t like their visits, so the communities gave up. Now they know their rights so they will stand their ground.
2. Community trainings in How to use Community Score Cards as a participatory tool for evaluating the provision and quality of services by DAs and other stakeholders. The 20 indicators on the scorecard included potable water facilities, public toilets, health centres, schools (pre-, primary and junior), school hygiene facilities, waste disposal, street cleaning and drainage systems. Only one community had a pre-school, a primary school and a junior school. The others had no school at all. They also had no potable drinking water or health facilities. Access to water is their priority because they know the huge benefits it will bring for their lives, health and livelihoods.
All communities were shocked to learn their DAs are supposed to provide all the services on the score card. One participant said that all the services have offices in the municipality so they will start contacting them. Spirits have been dampened by the DAs’ empty and unfulfilled promises of the past, but we hope the project will renew their vigour.
3. Collaboration with the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) to implement an educational programme in Afadzato South and Hohoe Municipality to raise awareness of WATSAN committees, community support groups, community score cards, and leadership to demand rights and accountability from DAs. Communities are now actively using their new skills and knowledge to demand their rights from the DAs.
4. Workshops on Rights and Accountability towards Communities to build the capacity of community leaders and civil society organisations to demand accountability from DAs and other duty bearers through effective communication and dialogue.
Participants expressed mixed opinions about how far they thought they can persuade the DAs to meet their demands: some felt the training will ‘bring something different’, while others felt that DAs will respond with their usual rhetoric: i.e. ‘we have heard’, and simply end there. Some also feel the DAs and politicians use water and sanitation provision as a vote winner.
5. Training workshop on building and sustaining coalitions and DAs’ budgeting processes to build a collective voice for advocacy, and help them understand DAs’ budgets so they can participate effectively in the process.
The Budgeting Officer for Savelugu Nanton Municipal Assembly stressed that DAs are not supposed to process their budgets without an Assembly person present but, if community or assembly persons fail to attend, the DAs make their own decisions. They must make every effort to attend and let their priorities be known. The Deputy Savelugu Municipal Planning Officer urged participants to constantly call and visit the DAs, adding “Take note: out of sight, out of mind”. This is quite shocking rally because the DAs are there to service the people, so they should always be in their minds even when out of sight.
There was a clear lack of effective communication between DAs and the communities: the DAs were not relaying information on their projects or their budgets to the communities. Most Assembly members have not been consulting communities sufficiently, but have now realized how important for communities to advise the DAs on their development priorities.
6. Radio Programmes
There have been on-going weekly radio programmes by Simli Radio (Tamale) with 30 minute discussions between representatives of communities, civil society organizations and DAs followed by 30 minutes of phone-in questions. These have been very successful in raising communities’ awareness about the duties of the DAs and the rights of communities to public services. The DAs have been under much pressure from communities as a result, including in Districts not directly covered by the project but where the radio programmes have reached out to. We have had many requests to continue the programmes so that more communities can learn about their rights and the duties of their DAs.
7. Training workshops: Effective communication skills for effective advocacy. Topics covered at the workshop were:
Communication: effective communication and its challenges; establishing and improving communication skills; and tools for effective communication. Advocacy: effective advocacy; barriers to effective advocacy; and the importance of involving all community members in determining communities’ needs and priorities before building the advocacy plan and action.
The NCCE encouraged participants to share their new knowledge with their communities when they get home, and the DA representatives advised them to visit the DAs frequently to discuss the plans and get further guidance. They added that communities should be careful because they sometimes allow themselves to be used by politicians.
8. Capacity building training workshop on rights-based advocacy and policy dialogue to empower community members for effective dialogue with their DAs, and to develop an advocacy strategy to demand their rights to services.
Assembly people advised their counterparts to use the knowledge gained during the workshops as a catalyst to change the lives of the people in their communities. The media encouraged the DAs to use them as an outlet for sharing their action plans, and also urged communities to visit media houses to share their views and get their voices heard. Three local FM stations aired the workshop proceedings during their news sections.
9. Capacity building training workshop on DA and community engagement towards participatory governance to build more positive relations between the DAs and their communities for effective policy dialogue and discussions about communities’ development priorities.
The participants reiterated the success of the radio programs in empowering communities and have ‘made the DAs to sit up’. They made further appeals for FoE-Ghana to expand the radio programme element of the project to reach more communities and continue for more time.
Project outcomes for Savelugu Nanton District in the Northern Region
Project outcomes for Kumbungu District in the Northern Region
Project outcomes for the Volta Region
Low female participation and inadequate gender balance: The Northern Regional Coordinator explained that communities think women do not contribute to discussions at the DAs so most of the Assembly Members are men. Cultural beliefs also hold that women should not talk outside of their communities, although they can contribute to the discussions in the community durbars. Women generally feel they should not talk too much anyway, and that their husbands are there to represent their views. The project committee agreed that women and children are the most vulnerable groups when considering water and sanitation issues, and so they must be properly represented in the discussions. To ensure their participation and achieve gender equity, the committee agreed a quota should be given to each target community to ensure a certain number of women and youth attend each meeting and/or workshop.
Facilitators have not been aware of the levels of community awareness and knowledge of certain issues, so they have been unsure how to pitch their education sessions. So it was agreed that facilitators must be briefed on the level of education of the participants to ensure the discussion is tailored to meet their needs. The presentations must also be practical and participatory using group work and focus group discussions.
The project is due for completion in December 2016, so we’ll give a final update in 2017.