Northern Uganda suffered immensely from the ravages of the war. With returned stability characterized by calmness, the scent and breeze of peace to the region, the majority of the 1.8 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have returned home. The impact of the conflict on social service infrastructure, resources and systems is however significant. The resettlement of the citizens has resulted in an increased demand for quality social services.
The enormous challenges that the population in Northern Uganda faced called for different actors to each make a contribution leading towards recovery and development. It is against this background that Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET) with support from the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) implemented a twenty four months project that aimed at empowering citizens to participate in processes of managing public resources and services. The project was implemented in the districts of Agago, Kitgum, Lamwo and Pader of Northern Uganda.
The project specifically targeted to empower citizens in northern Uganda with a special focus on women and youth to demand for improved and gender responsive service delivery by the Local Governments in their communities through establishing a strong civil society and providing a wider information base skills set to both rights holders and duty bearers.
UWONET employed a human rights based approach while implementing the project with an aim of increasing the community’s capacity to demand for the fulfillment of their rights. UWONET based this approach on the belief that for the benefits to be a reality in the lives of the marginalized and vulnerable people it is desirable for them to be capacitated on the realization of their rights through civic education for them to be part of government as well as development.
In a move to advance social change by the communities, UWONET trained, nurtured and mentored community watchdogs, civil society organisations and local groups to advocate and campaign for improved service delivery. On the other hand, UWONET also engaged duty bearers on their roles and responsibilities in not only delivering but ensuring quality and gender responsiveness. UWONET through the intervention stressed the need for community participation in service delivery as a means to advance pro-poor policies for equitable service delivery, promotion of ownership and sustainability of the social service infrastructure.
At the pinnacle to the project UWONET hosted a National Level Public Dialogue on Social Service Delivery in Uganda under the theme: “Women Influencing Quality Service Delivery: A Best Practice of Local Actions”. The dialogue provided a national platform to share district experiences in regard to citizen’s involvement in public service delivery with a view of informing and influencing national policy discourse and processes.
The National Level Dialogue served as a build up to the Sub County and District Level Dialogues conducted by the UWONET partners in the districts of operation. The local level dialogues provided an interface between the duty bearers and rights holders on service delivery. During these dialogues, community concerns and challenges were raised. Together with the duty bearers solutions and actions to address the gaps were agreed on.
The national dialogue provided an opportunity for local communities to further interface with the national level policy makers and representatives of line Ministries to discuss pertinent emerging social services challenges that affect development in the districts of operation. While recognizing the gains achieved by community participation for improved service delivery it was agreed that concepts such as gender mainstreaming and budgeting be integrated in national and local level planning structures.
It was evident at the national dialogue that the community watchdogs, local CSOs, Duty Bearers and Local Government Staff had over the project period advanced an increasing number of social accountability processes and thus improved service delivery in the communities.