Citizen participation can take many forms – from volunteering and voting, to contacting public officials and advocating for change at the local level. As Counterpart International partners with citizen leaders and civil society organizations around the globe, we experience how these local communities drive real and lasting positive change.

Communities Collaborate with the Government to Fight Malaria in Malawi

In Malawi, our Supporting the Efforts of Partners (STEPS) project supports the development of a capable and effective civil society: one that addresses the social, economic and environmental challenges that have long hindered the quality of life for Malawians. One such issue is endemic malaria. According to the World Health Organization, every Malawian lives in a region of high malaria transmission. In April 2017, Counterpart International partnered with the Pakachere Institute of Health and Development Communication to engage Malawians in the fight against this deadly disease.

In Mchinji district, Malawi, Pakachere hosted 15 Community Social Dialogue Sessions between government representatives and area residents in local primary schools. These social dialogue sessions communicated key malaria messages including prevention, control strategies and treatment. During the sessions, community members were first asked about the factors hindering malaria prevention and control at the community level. It was during these Q&A sessions that Pakachere made a startling discovery.

Remote village in Malawi

Counterpart works in remote, rural villages in Malawi to ensure civil society and government collaborate for inclusive and sustainable development

Most community participants reported that they were no longer sleeping under Long-Lasting Insecticide Nets (LLINS). Distributed by the Malawi government in 2014, these mosquito nets were now worn out and ineffective. Not realizing the health risk, participants had chosen to sleep without mosquito nets, potentially exposing themselves to malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. Following the educational trainings provided by Pakachere with Counterpart International assistance, these Mchinji residents agreed that one of the key ways to reduce the community’s high rate of malaria was to sleep under new treated nets.

Mchinji residents decided to work together as a community to buy their own nets instead of waiting for the government to provide them. For their part, the government is now more aware of the acute need to supply updated mosquito nets to their citizens on a more regular basis. This is all part of Counterpart’s commitment to strengthening the capacity of local civil society organizations to monitor and improve the delivery of public services. By partnering with Pakachere, our work has driven the kind of change that will save lives.

Just further north of Malawi, citizen participation in Zambia is being used to address a very different kind of development challenge: public service delivery and responsive governance.

Zambians Collaborate for an Inclusive Future

Since 2014, Counterpart International has been working to improve collaboration between the government and the people of Zambia through our Fostering Accountability and Transparency (FACT) program. Our local partners have hosted a series of Public District Dialogue Forums in at-risk communities in Lusaka and the Eastern provinces. Our FACT partners have given thousands of formerly marginalized Zambians a voice in the decision-making processes around public services like education, healthcare, HIV treatment and building sustainable livelihoods.

participants collaborate during a training activity

Counterpart International facilitates collaboration between civil society representatives and government officials to enhance public service delivery

Building on the success of these local forums, Counterpart International in collaboration with the Social Accountability Network and the Zambia Accountability Program (ZAP), funded by the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID) and implemented by the British Council, are organizing The Social Accountability Symposium in Lusaka, Zambia on September 12-13, 2017.

The symposium will showcase efforts to improve public services such as primary healthcare and early childhood education through citizen participation and constructive engagement with government service providers. The gathering will bring together 200 participants from international and local NGOs, community-based organizations, Government of the Republic of Zambia ministries and offices, international donors, the private sector and other stakeholders.

The forum comes at a particularly important time for Zambia. In June 2017, the Government of the Republic of Zambia launched the five-year Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP). This national plan envisions increased transparency and accountability and improved service delivery through informed citizen input. This symposium is a part of that commitment to connect decision makers and service providers to citizens so that they may engage effectively to plan and monitor public service delivery.

Counterpart International’s work demonstrates that when civil society is represented in the decision-making process, communities receive more effective public services that better correspond to local needs. We remain committed to strengthening public and private sector collaboration as a means to drive real and lasting positive change across Africa.

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