Citizen Advocacy Groups catalyze change

One of the initiatives of Project Ledia is to train up Citizen Advocacy Groups within the city of Gemena.  Two weeks ago I accompanied the Covenant Kids Congo team as they visited the first group formed in Gemena.  It was fascinating to learn what they did, how they did their work and the impact of their reporting.

Advocacy presenting the CKC team

World Vision only started training the first citizen’s advocacy group  in 2017.  The group was trained to see and assess issues within their neighborhoods and then prepare them for presentation to the local authorities.  They presented to us the work they had done to study the status of several health centers within the city.  They reported the following:

  • Receiving a copy of the national norms for health centers. These concern the requirements for the building for the center, required equipment, proximity to water, cleanliness, toilet facilities and more.
  • The group compared two health centers to the national norms, taking pictures where appropriate.
  • They then prepared a report which was presented to the Minister of Health for the South-Ubangi province, the medical head of the Gemena health zone, other government health authorities and the local neighborhood leaders.

The response of the government authorities was to toss out former reports and demand that changes take place.  WV Ledia Project Manager Justin Kazadi told me that upon hearing the group’s report he commented, “I’m going to throw out all the reports I’ve received because they are false.  This is a true report of the state of the health centers.”  Immediately the local neighborhood leaders decided to take action to improve the bathing area and toilets for the health centers in question.

This drawing on the wall gives the concept of what these groups are working for: that all three concerned parties; the government, the service providers and the beneficiaries or citizens, dialogue together about the issues and solutions in their communities.

In a private conversation with Justin confirmed to me what I thought, that the Congolese do not have a history of citizen advocacy.  The country’s history has included too much oppression.  Justin commented that “we desire this approach rather than a popular uprising which doesn’t raise up the true issues.”  “We want to have a change in the system, because we believe that it the system changes then the population will have access to sustainable development.

As citizen advocacy groups are trained and multiplied they have great potential to impact positive change in the neighborhoods.  I celebrate the government leaders’ response to this group’s initial report and look forward to hearing of more similar activities and solutions.



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