From 8 to 11 May 2012 PSAf hosted civil society officials from West Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa to share experiences on transparency and accountability activities under the Mwananchi programme of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI).
The meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, brought together the Mwananchi Advisory Board, Governance experts and National Coordinators from Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Malawi, Uganda and Zambia, as well as officials from the Overseas Development Institute in the United Kingdom. Zambia was also represented by members of the Atwaambe National Steering Committee, and grantees.
The ODI is implementing a citizen-state engagement initiative, the Mwananchi in six African countries under the Governance and Transparency Fund that is supported by the UK Department for International Development. PSAf is the National Coordinating Organisation (NCO) in Zambia managing the Mwananchi project, locally dubbed as Atwaambe (“let us talk”). The NCO administers grants to different media and civil society organisations to act as interlocutors between citizens and the state.
The project focuses on building 'coalitions of change' comprised of key interlocutors (game-changers) of the citizen–state relationship. Interlocutors come from the media, civil society organisations (CSOs), elected representatives (members of parliament and local councillors), and traditional leaders, or are individuals and organisations within the private sector or state institutions who can make change happen.
PSAf Regional Manager for Governance, Pryd Chitah who is also the National Coordinator for the Atwaambe project made a presentation based on the organisation’s work with various grantees in Zambia. Notable areas of impact highlighted across the different project sites include grantees increased use of evidence in debates, increased local level engagement with local government authorities on governance issues, establishment of linkages and dialogue with Parliamentary sub-committees and the creation of effective coalitions championing local level governance issues. This was also complemented by presentations from Yatsani Radio station and 2410, two grantees that are currently implementing community based activities in Zambia with PSAf support.
Officials from Yatsani Radio and grassroots organisation 2410 also shared experiences on the different activities they are doing under the Atwaambe project. A number of tangible results have been recorded in communities as a result of the interventions of the two organisations and other Atwaambe grantees.
The Mwananchi national coordinator for Ethiopia, Mesfin Tekleab , also shared with the meeting how in they have been working with communities to demand for responsible leadership from elected representatives. The interventions have resulted in parents being engaged in the management of schools, and support being provided for farmers. In Uganda, Andrew Kawooya indicated that the project has empowered citizens to put in place informal structures to enhance the formal systems, especially in terms of the administration of justice under the Bataka courts, which handle civil cases. The court is made up community members, with a panel of seven members as facilitators.
Highlighting the project’s impact in Ghana, Glowen Kyei-Mensah said they had managed to support research related activities. Some of the grantees have managed to establish partnership with selected media houses and journalists to tackle certain issues.
From Malawi, Lucy Nyirenda, highlighted that despite some partners droping out of the initiative, the project was going on well. The project has managed to foster public debate around Members of Parliament switching political parties.