At least 28 Young Women Social Accountability Councillors from Umzingwane, Bulawayo, Plumtree, Gwanda and Lupane were trained on social accountability in order to increase their capacity to demand improved service delivery from their duty bearers.
Facilitating the training, Mpumelelo Madhlakela a seasoned social accountability and governance expert highlighted that social accountability empowers ordinary people and non-state actors to hold public officials and non-elected leaders accountable for their actions, performance, omissions and misdemeanours.
Madhlakela highlighted that although there are other approaches that can be used to demand accountability which include the auditing system, the general elections held every five years, the judiciary system and the legislature, social accountability is readily available for us as it allows citizens to directly interface with service providers unlike other systems that have bureaucratic bottlenecks.
“Courts are expensive for the ordinary people and they take a long time to be rectified. This becomes a disadvantage. The legislature has a lot of procedures and processes that need to be followed,” said Madhlakela.
Madhlakela encouraged young women to adhere to the following social accountability components which include collection, analysis and dissemination of information, Mobilisation of public support, Collective decision making and Advocacy and negotiation for change.
“When we want to engage, we should do adequate research so that our engagements are meaningful and we have enough evidence on our issue. We should also minimise antagonism because it is critical to engage constructively, said Madhlakela.
During the training, young women identified issues such as access to education, quality water, roads, access to land and housing, refuse collection, drainage systems which they will gather evidence on to help them advocate for improved services.
“I think as young people we have a role to play to ensure social accountability in service provision through the use of social media in these COVID-19 times. With rampant corruption and looting, it takes the whole community to be educated on social accountability for them to know it’s our right to demand transparency and accountability,” said one of the young women who participated in the training.
Participants were trained on the tools they can use for gathering evidence which include surveys, citizen report cards and community score cards, public expenditure tracking surveys, social audits, monitoring and evaluations, notice boards/transparency boards, interface meetings/public hearings, media approaches, public performance/street theatre tools and advocacy.
Madhlakela emphasized the use of Public Expenditure Tracking Surveys (PETS) which are key tools for tracking budget expenditure.
Madhlakela also explained Community Score Cards citing that they are a community-based approach for assessing local government services, grading them according to a range of scores.
“For instance, assessing the provision of water there will be an element where the frequency of the provision of water will be assessed and the level of cleanliness of the water. And also the duration of availability of water. It is used for gathering citizen’s perception of public services,” he said.
Madhlakela also noted that COVID-19 is being used by public offices as a scapegoat not to deliver on their duties and their mandate and encouraged young women to be proactive and use different and innovative platforms to demand for accountability.
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