Community-based organizations, religious and traditional stakeholders and youth in the Western Rural and Urban Area were engaged by Campaign for Good Governance (CGG) on, “building an active civil society for improved gender responsive public service delivery especially for women and girls to attain sustainable development in the country.” The community engagement brought together youth campaigners from Brookfields, Calaba town, Waterloo, Dworzack and Joe Town, among others. Haja Ya Alimamy Sesay, one of the tribal heads for Mayenkeneh, in Calaba Town, said they have been working closely with all stakeholders but expressed that since this government came to power she is yet to attend any meeting organized by their Councilor. She said they are not aware of any council activities stating that the link between them and local government is their councilor but with all her efforts the political figure is not showing any commitment. Chief Mohamed Alpha Sogbeh Turay, from Brook fields said they had two wards in the community Ward 432 and 433 and their councilors have been doing well in terms of one-on-one engagements but they are not holding Ward Committee meetings. He said the only way development can reach at that level is when regular meetings are held thereby ensuring issues affecting their communities will be highlighted for the attention of council. Alusine K. Kargbo from Brookfields said many a time the youth are left out in almost all activities in their community by politicians especially their councilor. The only time they call them is for labour. He said they are not aware of how to hold their politicians accountable because they are being neglected. The project leader for CGG, Victor Graffe, said they are implementing an European Union funded project aimed at building the capacity of youth and building an active civil society for improved gender responsive public service delivery. He said the decision was as a result of findings from the community scorecard that highlighted non-participation of youth, persons with disability, women and girls in key decision making processes in communities.
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Graffe said breaking the barriers of inclusion, participation, women involvement in decision making, youth and girls engagement into community activities and planning among other is possible when community stakeholders and their leaders converge in such meetings and map out a way for the development of their community, because according to him, sustainable development can be achieved through inclusion, participation, knowledge sharing and regular engagements between duty holders and community people. The Assistant Development Officer for Freetown City Council, Fatmata Kamara, said Council have set measures to ensure accountability in every community stating that the first thing every community member should do is to know their Ward Committee member. She said Ward Committee members were elected and if they are not working, it is the responsibility of community members to re-elect other members. The Council official said development can only happen in a community when councilors take to council meeting issues affecting their communities stating that if Ward Committee members are not working in the interest of their community, it is the responsibility of community members to officially request from their councilor to know their committee members. They can form a committee to meet with the Mayor for a revisit of their Ward committee member. Mohamed Conteh, from CGG, said decentralization is a political reform where in local people can access and influence decision in local government pointing that it is the right and responsibility of every citizen to know the Local Government Act 2004. He said citizens should visit local councils to enquire and ask about anything they want to know in terms of accountability and operations of council. Fatmata Beatrice Lebbie, in Waterloo, said council hardly involves community people into their development activities. They only involve their close relatives, friends or party supporters, which according to her have been a barrier to development in their community. She said the tradition that women should be submissive has been a major barrier to inclusive participation of women. Rufus Tamba in Waterloo believes that Ward Committee Members should be elected from sections in the ward but according to him, most members were selected to serve. They hardly engage their community because they are not knowledgeable of what to do. Councilor Yusuf Brima Kamara in Waterloo said as part of the Local Government Act 2004, Ward Committee members are formed based on elections saying that the issue of youth involvement and participation is in place at their council with 70-80 percent councilors are youth. He said the issue of representation is bestowed in political parties in the award of symbols but assured that they will revisit their committee members and try as much as they can to reach at all wards and sections. Former Councilor, Unisa Keister said it is the responsibility of politicians to render better services to their communities and be accountable to them through constructive engagements in the interest of the community.
By Mohamed Kabba
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