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Siera Grass-roots Agency (SIGA)

Youths and Women in Governance

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Movement for Citizen's Participation in Governance

(MCPG)


(Empowering the Youths)

In a bid to encourage the youths to take their development matters in to their own hands, SIGA is implementing the Movement for Citizen’s Participation in Governance (MCPG) project. The MCPG is a youth membership and leadership community project that has been in existence since 2006.

The Vision of the MCPG

The vision of the MCPG project is a Sierra Leone in with enlightened youths, conscious of their rights and obligations to the society.

 The Mission of the MCPG

The mission of MCPG is to bring the citizens and especially the youths of Sierra Leone into the mainstream of governance. The MCPG serves to empower the youths with the knowledge of the operations, obligations and limitations of the government; human rights and responsibilities.

 Background to the Project

The initiative that led to the formulation of the project came out of the disappointment that our governance system in Siera Leone is supposed to be people driven but when looked at critically, there is no doubt that governments in Sierra Leone are far removed from the people. The only moment that the people and especially the youths appear important in the eyes of the politicians is when it comes to elections. When ones that is over, the people are forgotten for another five years. This detachment of the people from the corridors of power is reflected in policy formation and implementation. When the government wants to institute policies, they take the decisions in the comfort of their offices with little or no consultation with the people. The Parliament that supposes to represent the people and ensure that their voices are heard and their concerns and challenges registered has become a playground for the interest of the political elites. All the engagements they make in parliament are all aimed at scoring political goals. When they form these policies, from the outward of it, it seems to be beneficial to the people but when it comes to implementation, all the resources are siphoned and misappropriated; thus leaving the policies unimplemented or if implemented the end-results leave the people worse off.

Overall Project Objective

The MCPG is trying to bring the people into mainstream governance and ensure that the resources are equitably distributed and enjoyed by all the citizens

 Two main thematic areas are targeted by the project:

  1. The youths
  2. The women.

The reason for targeting these two groups is because they are two of the most excluded and neglected groups in Sierra Leone.

As far as the youth question is concerned, since my country gained independence in 1961, the youths have been the most marginalized and exploited by successive government. Instead of developing policies and implementing programs that will generally benefit the youth of the country devoid of tribal and sectional consideration; successive governments hold on to patrimonial ways of distributing the states resources. The only youths, who got job, scholarships and other privileges, were those who supported them. This systemic political, economic and social marginalization of youths set the stage for the bloody civil war that devastated and bled this country for a decade, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report 2004 (TRC Report 2004).

After the war was officially declared over in 2002, the UN set in with the Peace building program that involves comprehensive efforts geared towards creating institutions that will sustain peace in the country. The TRC Report that serves as the road map for the implementation of the peace building programs recommended that Government should take the problem of the youths with seriousness. This was because, majority of those who actively participated in the war as members of the Revolutionary United Front ( RUF), the “Kamajors” or the Ex-soldiers were all youths. Statistics have it that there was 72, 000 fighters that went through the Disarmament, Demobilization and Re-integration program (DDR), and after DDR program was completed, most of these youths were re-integrated into the society; thus the existence of a youthful population with militant mindsets (Gberi 2005). As a way of precluding the chances of these youths relapsing into the entrapment of their wicked past, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report recommended that the government should in partnership with the private sector create employment opportunities for the youths.

However, despite all these recommendations, the youths of the country are still the most marginalized and the most removed from governance in term of getting attention from policy makers. After the war the youth population of the country stood around 1,500,000(Christine Cubit 2005) and that makes the youth population stand as 60 % of the country’s population; thus making it one of the highest in the West African sub-region (West African Outlook 2012, P 2) but unfortunately out of the whole lot, the country still have 70% of the youths are unemployed and 50% are uneducated and unskilled. The only ideal means of livelihood for these neglected youths has been their engagement in petty trade and ‘okada’ riding (Motor cycling taxi) which is highly conducted in the city of Freetown and that itself always put them in violent contention with the police due to its reckless nature. It is due to the lack of recreational facilities, the only area where the youths go to give expression to their disgruntlement and disappointment is the ghetto where they spent the rest of the day in weed smoking and alcohol drinking, which also in itself has health hazards. The youths then see themselves very detached from the mainstream society and they see the wealth of the country positively changing the lives of the few while they continue to wallow in abject neglect and penury. This social, economic and political neglect has found expression in unbridled violence between youth groups in their struggle for supremacy in music, violence between youths and the police etc. All these unhealthy social realities has led to the death of so many youths and sent many to Prison.

Current Projects of the MCPG

Against the above it is clear the reason for this neglect is because the youths of the country have not been fully capacitated to take for themselves a center stage in the governance of the country. Also, we believe it is as a result of the fact that they have always been the listeners to the politicians while nobody has been prepared and ready to give ears to them.

 As a way of building their capacities for them to be able to actively engage their parliamentarians, we have instituted what we called “Youth forums” in the respective sections of the capital city Freetown.

The Youth Forum Project

As the name implies, the Youth forum constitute youths that are drawn from all facets of respective societies and constituencies within the city of Freetown. It constitutes the bike riders, the petty traders, the unemployed, the educated and uneducated that do not have any ideal means of livelihood. The project not designed to provide job buts to find ways of drawing the attention of those who in positions to provide for them jobs and give them pride and human dignity within society. As a schedule, we ensure that every two months, we help them organize a forum that invites the presence of key policy makers in the different ministries, prominent NGOs and CSOs, the media etc, that handle diverse social issues ranging from unemployment, education, and youth empowerment. It brings the youths face-to-face with Ministers, Parliamentarians, Mayors, Councilors etc.  This forum gives the youths the chance to brainstorm with them on the way forward to remedy some of their problems. Since we started organizing programs with these youths, a lot has been impacted. In 2008, we held the first one at Kroo Bay. Kroo Bay is the most socially deprived community in Freetown if not the entire country. It is a slummy area that got a population of over 8000 People but it lacked all the basic amenities. The youths in this area of the city are the bulk of the youths who terrorize the city as criminals and fraudsters. Considering the fact that the engagement of these youths cannot be detached from the neglect they suffer in terms of the enjoyment of the basic social needs, we deemed it imperative to make there our first focus. With our intervention through capacity building trainings, today the youths of Kroo Bay has been able to mount pressure on their parliamentarians and City Council for them to be provided with some public toilets and those toilets are there now helping the area of health and sanitation to the people of that community. We have also succeeded in instituting Youths Forums in other places in the city of Freetown like Khanikei, Dwarzark, Mountain Cut, and Wellington etc. These places are notorious for violence and alcoholism but with our persistent engagement with the youth forums, such incidences have reduced considerably.

 We intend expanding the youth projects to include:

  • Employment resources and career development services for youths
  • Small enterprises development for youths

 WE NEED FUNDING PARTNERS!

 The Women’s Program

Apart from the youths, the other component of the Sierra Leonean society that has suffered great neglect is the women and this has been the situation before and after the war. Prior to the war, the conditions of the women have been very sub-human and deplorable as the society created no protection for them. There was no legal framework to protect them. The law enforcement agencies themselves do not treat the concerns of women seriously. For example, when a woman was raped, instead of the perpetrators be brought to book, the matter is sent out of police or the court as it is regarded as a family matter and mostly the case is ended with the woman marrying to the person who raped her and sometimes, because of poverty, the victim and family are compensated in order to settle it all. If allowed in the course of a relationship, there are no laws, which protect the interest or welfare of the woman. Her husband can beat her mercilessly and sexually harassed with impunity. When they also get pregnant, there is no medical welfare system, which protects them and their children from health challenges. In the year 2004, the Doctors without Borders Report pointed Sierra Leone as the worst place in the whole world for a woman to give birth as out of every ten women who gave birth, four dies and the situation was more troublesome for the child.

Again in the area of inheriting a husband’s property, it was mostly handled the traditional way that greatly hampers a woman’s access to her husband’s property. A woman only has access to her husband’s property if she has a child for the late man or she is ready to get settled to the husband’s brother. Outside these two requirements, she goes to her relatives without anything no matter how affluent the life of her husband’s was. 

During the course of the war, the body of women was made the battlefield for the fighting factions and so greater number of these women was raped. The TRC Report

The Women Clinic

The MCPG is implementing the Women Clinic, a project is strictly for women association in different areas of the capital city Freetown. The design is to bring all women together but most often than not the socially disadvantaged. The project aims at giving them the opportunity for their voices to be heard. The project also assists with the organization Policy engagement with their key representatives in parliament, politics and UN agencies. This meeting is scheduled after every two months. This engagement is aimed at selling out the policy constrains women go through in their respective societies and the project also intend develop projects that are geared towards building the capacities of women so that they can also be able to stand and assert their importance in the governance of their country.

These two programs have been very successful in that the youths and the women in these respective areas of the city have reasonable political awareness and today can in most instances stand out and tell truths to powers that be and this have positively impacted on these societies in term of the provision of the basic necessities and also ensuring accountability from their Councilors, and members of Parliament.

We intend taking the MCPG programs beyond where we are but we are constrained in term of financing all the programs, as most of the programs we have undertaken were driven from SIGA little resources we have been able to generate from well meaningful people around.

WE NEED FUNDING PARTNERS!


35 Ferguson Street * Freetown, Sierra Leone West Africa

                    Tel:+232- 22 220884                              Mobile: +232 -76-603491