Empowered citizens are more responsible on their community development
Amani Girls Home, a non-governmental organisation established in 2002, was primarily established to cater for street girls in Mwanza, Tanzania’s second biggest City, but it has since expanded its scope to other areas of social work. This includes community awareness campaigns, which is the subject of this story.
“We have widened our scope to include Social Accountability Monitoring and tracking of public expenditure in education in our communities” says Vales Vuri, an official with Amani.
He notes that while the education capitation arrangement that provides Sh10,000 for each learner is understandably inadequate, the question is, “Is this resource spent as it should?” Allegations of embezzlement are rife, but often hardly substantiated with evidence.
The organisation concern is building community capacity and awareness so that citizens can ask questions and demand information regarding expenditure in schools from Head Teachers and School Committees. This is aimed at increasing citizens’ participation in the process; hence improving education in their communities.
In this initiative, this organization is supported by Foundation for Civil Society (FCS) to conduct community awareness and education campaigns on Social Accountability Monitoring and tracking of public expenditure. The projects also worked on the formation of Local Area Committees that engage citizens on these issues.
Public expenditure tracking
Jumanne Msafiri (40), a resident of Kamanga Village in Sengerema, is a member of his community’s Public Expenditure Tracking Committee. He participated in various PETS training and said through these sessions, people have gained the courage to question leaders on how money issued by the government is spent. “We are noticing change in our leaders. They are not doing things as they used to in the past… I think it is because they know we are watching them” he said.
Mr Msafiri is married with six children and works as a cobbler. He gives the qualifications of a Village PETS committee member:
- Must be a resident of Kamanga Village
- Must be literate
- Must show he/sheunderstands the needs of fellow villagers, and
- Should not be an active member of local government leadership
He further elaborates that their committee is gender balanced, so of the four members, two are women. “Also, there should at least be one member from special needs persons, but none was present on the day we were elected to office,” he explains.
Mr Msafiri speaks with certainty that the awareness that people have gained, leading to their courage to question their leaders on how they spend public resources has resulted into construction of the new nursery school building in the village. “Our children are now accessing nursery stage learning in readiness for Class One entrance in a good and safe environment. The building was constructed six months ago and already 100 children have been enrolled” he added. Their teacher, Mr Michael Mbugi, had already received special training on Integrated Early Childhood Development (IECD) through other projects undertaken by Amani Girls Home.
“There is a need for the village authorities to organise more public meetings in which everybody should participate and be given space to raise their voice on matters that affect them” says Mr Mbugi.
Mr Bugota Kafuku (37), father of three and Mr Rwekiza Dominic (42), father of eight are members of a four-person Good Governance Committee at Karumo Village: They say that their committee has been holding meeting frequently since 2016 and have access to question local government leaders on how money issued by the government is spent.
“At public meetings, people, not just the Committee members, but all villagers have the courage to ask questions we never dared ask before, thanks to Amani for community awareness and education campaigns” – Bugota Kafuku.
“At one meeting people raised queries on the use of capitation funds disbursed to our Ward school, that is, Karumo Primary School. The school committee had to explain on the proposal until the citizens understood and agreed on way forward” – Rwekiza Dominic.
Ms Grace Elikana, a 36-year-old married mother of two boys and 2 girls; and Mr Ayubu Chaupele, a 50-year-old married to two wives with 11 children are both members of the village Committee on Good Management and Accountability at Nyamatongo Village: They appreciate Amani Girls’ Home efforts on community awareness, education and mobilization. They reveal that their fellow Committee members benefitted from the numerous seminars organised by Amani.
“We were taught how to seek information, follow up and track expenditure of public money and verify whether or not such funds have been spent well” – Grace Elikana.
“Two communications towers have been erected in our villagers by mobile telephone companies. This brings in revenue to our village. It is our duty together with all villagers to get information on the revenues collected and how it is spent. It is public money, our money. We are currently building a school with this money” – Ayubu Chaupele.
The two acknowledge that through Amani initiatives, citizens have become more responsible, closer to their local government and don’t fear asking their leaders difficult questions regarding their welfare and development. To use Mr Chaupele’s words, “Viongozi sasa ni wapole”, meaning the leaders are now showing respect to citizens.