From the inside out

13:08 Jul 2 2012 Angurai, Kenya

The Citizen Voice and Action approach has brought tangible change to several communities around the world, including to Angurai, a small community in the west part of Kenya. CVA was introduced in Angurai in May 2010 with the goal of training community members on public policy, social accountability and advocacy.

The training sessions were followed by an interface meeting with local councilors, assistant chiefs, chiefs and Constituency Development Fund Committee (CDFC) representatives. Upon having the interface meeting, the community organized a series of local level sensitization activities in schools, churches and local barazas (social gatherings in which people share knowledge and wisdom, and relationships are built).The focus of the mobilization was to inform the people about various decentralized funds and the role of communities in monitoring service delivery.

By the end of that year, Angurai Integrated Programme Area (IPA) had begun receiving feedback from the CVA members on the progress of their efforts on the ground. Information got in that some Location Development Committee (LDC) members did not know what projects were being support by CDF. This was the evidence that LDC members were not aware of their roles, or they were not being held accountable for them. The existence of ghost projects was another issue that emerged. Those projects existed on records at the CDF office as being funded, but could not be traced on the ground.

CVA team members reported instances in which the local government was not following through with their projects. At a school, for example, records indicated that 18 latrines had been constructed, but in reality, there were only five. In that same school, the report said enough funds had been allocated to remodel classrooms, but only one building seemed to have received any of that money. To make matters worse, at least four head teachers that were knowledgeable about the project were transferred. In other words, nobody was left to question authorities.

If on one hand the CVA approach enabled citizens to expose wrongdoing, the initiative also produced positive results in the community. Examples of those outcomes are: school enrollment increased from 480 to 560, and the ratio of teacher-pupil at a kindergarten went from 120:1 to 40:1.

Another achievement was the resolution of an issue about the installation of electricity at a local market. About $6,000.00 had been allocated for the project, but lack of accountability diverted the money. The CVA methodology allowed citizens to investigate and demand the completion of the electric system.

Evidently, CVA has built a strong advocacy platform upon which the Angurai community can stand and finally speak up in regard to their rights and duties. After the implementation of the CVA methodology, the access to basic public policy information increased. Now, churches, schools and other government institutions have suggestions boxes so that anyone can express their opinions.

From the child who enjoys the benefits of a well-managed primary school to an adult that gets to learn about rights and duties as a citizen, the CVA approach has been transforming the relationship between community and local government in Angurai. Perhaps, the most important lesson this community has been experiencing is that deep and sustainable change blossoms from within, and the key tool for that is empowerment.
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