CIVIC EDUCATION

CAV’s strategy has a vision of thriving peace, unity and economic development in Africa. This is based on our desire for inclusive, equitable and just society, where citizens especially women and young people enjoy their rights and have access to resources necessary to live dignified lives as active citizens in the African continent. Participatory governance and active citizenship at all levels are priority goals for CAV, ideally achieved through citizens demanding transparency, accountability and inclusion from their governments and duty bearers across the continent. CAV believes that participatory leadership and fiscal justice can only be sustainably achieved by citizens demanding a seat at the table and ensuring more inclusion in important decision making processes that are normally captured by elites and the political class.

VOICE: GIVING PEOPLE THE VOICE

In the context of civic education, VOICE refers to the opportunity to express ideas and needs; give opinion (agreement or disagreement) or to claim one’s rights. Our interest in this sense is to establish through research and observation the extent to which people feel and how communities perceive [IF] and whether they have VOICE and the opportunity to express themselves on important issues that affect them. Key among the issues we focus on as to whether people have voice over includes health, education, sanitation and security. We further interrogate the involvement of the existing community structures, eg, religious institutions, community groups, CBOs, etc in advancing the voice of the people.

In the effort to organize communities to have VOICE, our volunteers educate communities on their rights to hair their voices and we help communities explore various avenues of ensuring that they are always heard and their concerns acted on. We are seeking to reinforce the need for an intervention that would make opportunities for community’s participation more meaningful and accessible.

REPRESENTATION: UNDERSTANDING DEMOCRATIC AND PUBLIC REPRESENTATION

Representation is considered the opportunity for citizens to have someone, ideally elected or appointed by the community, speaking on their behalf and actively promoting their views. This parameter sought to understand the extent to which respondents felt they have credible mechanisms and persons to represent and champion their interests.

But first, it needs to be understood that in democracies, the right to representation is exercised through voting and elections, and that to achieve the objectives of representation, populations should be able to elect officials who truly represent them and the interests of their communities.

Civic representation is at the core of democracy. Underrepresentation can mean that certain priorities or segments of population can be marginalized. At the same time, issues those that have higher representation or voting turnout can be favored and would feel more motivated to participate in processes that perpetuate social accountability. This notion assumes that everyone is equally aware and educated on the issues at hand.

In our basic research, we are seeking to establish the extent to which people feel that they are represented.

Our volunteers also work to educate people on their sovereignty and the right to proper representation. We also equip communities with proper tools of taking duty bearers to account. We raise awareness among people to realize that they have the power to elect and that they have the same power to remove an officer who does not serve their interest.

INFLUENCE: DO PEOPLE HAVE INFLUENCE IN KEY DECISION MAKING PROCESSES?

Influence is understood to mean the extent to which communities can influence decision making on issues, especially those affecting them. Our program is set out to understand the people’s perceptions on the extent to which they feel they have influence over key decisions and actions within their communities.

In a democratic society, government policies and initiatives are (in theory and modest practice) anchored on the concept of community/public influence - sometimes referred to as the ‘concept of Big Society and Small State’. While there are provisions in law that protects community participation and subsequent influence, in practice, community involvement is often seen as just another legal requirement rather than for the substance of it – at least according to discussions and conversations we always have in communities across Africa.

Our preliminary findings shows that people have limited to no influence on the decision making processes in governance. Community influencing should therefore be an area of intense programing during our project implementation.

It is our greater proposal that every citizen should be in a position to interact and influence every system of governance either by directly exercising their power or indirectly through their elected representatives and duty bearers. As to whether they have the capacity to engage the county government, this should certainly be assessed, capacity gaps identified and addressed over the life of this project.

Conclusively, community influence is a critical driver for the enjoyment of various basic services, management of community assets, budget planning processes and public accountability mechanisms – of which initiatives could have remarkable implications on the intersection between participative democracy (community driven) and representative democracy (leadership driven).

Whilst there is a strong argument for investing in community capacities to engage, participate and influence, it needs to be noted that there should be an equal level of investment dedicated to government institutions and the private sector towards improving openness and willingness to engage with the communities – including the need for public agencies to be receptive to their influence.

It is in this vain that CAV Volunteers engage with communities in a bid to create safe space to community-government and government engagement for effective and responsive service delivery.

EMPOWERMENT: DO WE HAVE STRONG COMMUNITY STRUCTURES?

This reffers to the capacity for citizens to self-mobilization and organization with the purpose of being stronger in relations with government and the service providers.

Under this program, we are seeking to organize communities for action by strengthening community groups and where they are lacking, we aid in establishing new ones to enable communities build stronger networks to enable them participate meaningfully in the processes of governance

ACCESS TO INFORMATION: DO PEOPLE HAVE TO INFORMATION?

In the context of this study, Access to Information is understood to mean the freedom or ability to identify, obtain and make use of data or information towards strengthening Social Accountability. Access to information is a critical component of accountability, as information held by various state and non-state actors need to be made available to the public to facilitate processes of social accountability. As a matter of fact state organs are obligated to facilitate availability of information to the public. Access to timely and accurate information provides individuals with the knowledge required to participate effectively in the democratic processes in any democratic society. Access to information fosters openness and transparency in decision-making.

Though it is clear that there are adequate laws and legal safeguards to facilitate access to information in Kenya and other African countries, government offices and officials remain very guarded and are particularly sensitive on information that might relate to budgets. It does not help that the offices that deny citizens the enjoyment of the right to access information are supported by other laws like the Service Commissions Act, and the Official Secrets Act, amongst others – of which legal instruments were intended to safeguard national security, and public interest but which are often used as deny access to information to the public.

NEGOTIATION:

Negotiation is understood to mean the ability for citizens to consult and be consulted in all development processes within their communities. They also must be able to claim enforcement of social contracts and the rules and regulations that facilitate better delivery of services. It is the ability to meaningfully participate and present community interest in decision making processes by the government, CSOs, or the private sector. For example, deciding whether to allow an investor to use community lands and natural resources is one of the most important decisions a community can make. When negotiations are conducted fairly and inclusively, investments may result in the creation of jobs, provision of much-needed infrastructure such as schools, roads and clinics, and rental payments that have the potential to support the community’s long-term prosperity and wellbeing.

Unfortunately, consultations between communities, governments and investors are typically characterized by significant information and power imbalances. Community members often don’t know what rights they have, what fair compensation would be, or distinguish what is a right from that which might be given in the form of aid. Public officers (mostly politicians) often utilize such inadequacy of knowledge to perpetuate agenda which in most cases isn’t in the interest of the community. Without the opportunity to negotiate, communities are often powerless to hold a government institution or private investor accountable, and demand remedies for any environmental and social damages.

It is not ideal that key development decisions to be made by a few leaders in government, or with connections in government, who purport to act on behalf of the many but who refuse to involve the many in their deliberations or do so superficially. Such apathy for inclusion often leads to active opposition and presents a major challenge to efforts of social accountability.

WHAT OUR VOLUNTEER DO

1. Basic Research

Through our freelance mobile based application, our volunteers collect data that informs our 365 Days of Civic Engagements in Africa. This is an opportunity that is open for all our volunteers to get connected to their communities, as well; our members get to know, first hand, the perception of people in line with our key programmatic areas.

2. Mobilizing & Organizing for Action

We are interested in building strong communities well knit together with the fabrics of civic knowledge. To achieve this, our volunteers all over Africa mobilize and organize members of the community into recognized structures that pursue well defined objectives.

3. Advocacy & Training

Our Volunteers are trained to organize communities and offer training through open forums, seminars and workshops. The agenda here is to equip members of the public with information in relations to their civic rights and responsibility. We are seeking to model an empowered society that is conscious of their inalienable sovereignty.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE

CAVAFRICA champions for an Africa in which volunteerism can flourish; it pushes for the ability and right of people to participate in their own development without hanging on to other nations for favors, donations or sympathy. IF you are moved to empower the African society by educating and fostering knowledge; IF you would wish to conduct research and disseminate information to different African communities, then this is your organization. Contact Us and let us know how you’d wish to participate +254203509346 Email: admin@centerforafricavolunteers.org

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