On 26th/03/2019, Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE) Busia field office hosted a donor monitoring visit from the Comic Relief UK team. The visiting team included Sofia Olsson and Caroline.
The Comic Relief fund is under the Voice Accountability and Leadership Project (VALP) which is implemented in the five districts of Busia, Lyatonde, Mityana, Wakiso and Masindi. The project goal is to enhance citizenship and accountability to women and girls. The key specific objectives include; To improve access to quality education for girls, To improve access for maternal health services for women and girls and To enhance the participation of women, girls, men, legislators, CSOs to provide and demand for gender responsive services and accountable leadership.
To monitor the progress on the implementation of the mentioned project, Comic Relief UK team conducted a half day monitoring visit in Busia District. These included a number of activities like courtesy visit to Busia field Office, travel to Bulumbi sub county, visit to the Bulumbi H/C III and Namungodi p/s.
At the Busia field Office the team was briefed about FOWODE as an organization, the VALP project, the VBC model approach and the numerous successes of the project that has been implemented for the last three years.
Thereafter the team traveled to Bulumbi Sub county accompanied by the field staff and the District Inspector of Schools to check and interact with the project beneficiaries. At the sub-county the team paid a courtesy visit to the Office of the sub county Chairperson where the leaders including the inspector of Schools shared how they collaborate and participant in our activities and the changes that have occurred as a result of our work. A key to note was the improved service delivery in the schools and health centers where the VBCs have intervened.
The Inspector was quoted saying, “the VBC work has helped us to know the service delivery gaps and therefore prioritize them in our plans and budgets, we have always ensured that the issues raised by them are put into consideration because they come with evidence”.
The team was later accompanied to Bulumbi H/C III where they met the VBCs, the health centre in charge and the mid wife in charge of the maternity section. While moving through the facility with the team, the in charge shared a number of changes that have occurred as a result of the VBC intervention like increasing the number of deliveries ranging from 100 to 120 on average per month, besides he also noted that 85% of the Antenatal care visits by the women are accompanied by their spouses making the health unity one of the best in the district and eastern region in male involvement. However, the in charge also noted the existing challenges of the facility like limited space.
To learn and hear from the VBCs, we held a brief planning meeting where the VBCs shared some of the key successes of their work from the 4 project schools (Buhoya p/s, Namungodi p/s, Nasweswe p/s and Sidimbire p/s) and 1 health centre of Bulumbi. Some of the achievements shared by the VBCs included improved academic performance in the VBC schools, improved menstrual management hygiene, increased enrolment for the Girls like in Buhoya p/s where the number of girls increased from 225 in 2016 to 320 in 2019 ,enhanced parents roles and responsibilities towards supporting and promoting girls education, improvements in health care provisions is reduced absenteeism among the staffs, change of attitude of the health workers, provision of free health care services and improved accountability systems in the VBCs institutions.
The VBCs also commended FOWODE for empowering them through the VBC model where over 4 members participated in the last local councils and emerged as village chairperson and chairpersons women’s council. Some are on the management committees for the schools, Catharine the Chairperson Bulumbi VBC said “before I joined the VBC I could not even stand before people and talk but now with the knowledge and skills, information that I have gained I feel empowered and confident to even take up any leadership position and the reason I was elected the chairperson women’s council in my village”.
The Team Finally moved to Namungodi p/s where they interacted with the Headmistress Namungodi p/s, the Head Master Buhoya p/s, the Senior woman and senior man of Namungodi. While there, the results of the VBC work was shared like the VBCs pushed for the Budget line for the girl child to cater for the menstrual hygiene, increased staffing levels out of the VBC advocacy work, reduced teacher-pupil absenteeism, increased enrollment for the girls and good performance in the VBC schools, increasing participation of the parents in supporting the school programs where they noted that it used to be very hard for the parents to attend the school meetings.
The group later met with the gender and leadership club of Namungodi p/s who were found in the process of making the reusable sanitary pads as one of their activities geared improving menstrual management among girls. The Senior woman teacher informed that the reason they teach the girls on how to make the reusable pads is because the pads provided at school are for emergence, however, when the girls are at home, they cannot afford the pads therefore the reusable pads can be carried home for future use. The Senior woman teacher noted that as a school they have planned and budgeted for the emergency sanitary towels for the girls including the changing uniforms and nickers.
It was noted that the Gender Leadership Clubs (GLCs) are involved in a number of activities like menstrual management hygiene activities, gender debates, drama, sports and gardening. “Our GLCs have also been participating and taking up leadership positions for prefect-ship in schools to enhance on their leadership skills” said the senior women teacher Namungodi p/s.
The senior woman teacher noted that as a result of improved menstrual management hygiene at school, there is reduced absenteeism among girls, there is improved performance and also the retention rates improved.
The VBC model was such an amazing model for the team to learn, “The VBC model is a great idea for community members to demand for improved services, ” said Caroline CR, UK. Sofia also noted that the VBC model is well structured and easier for transformative and sustainable approaches. The involvement of the boys and model men in the promotion of gender was also observed as a great idea to reduce stigma.
Health care provision is still a challenge thus even making the advocacy work challenging, this was in reference to the challenges the facility still has like space, inadequate medical supplies etc.