The thrust of the programme is to facilitate the process of community managed institutions in urban areas. ActionAid programmes in WADA include water and sanitation, youth empowerment, shelter, food processing, livestock restocking, advocacy, gender, and Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA) training.
Western Area Development Area started operations in 1995 in response to the emergency situation of the war period and to address urban poverty in deprived communities in the eastern suburb of the capital city Freetown. The DA covers 31 hilly, down valley and marshy communities that were further deprived by the devastating effects of the decade long civil war.
The focus of WADA’s programme for 2008 is to continue strengthening the capacities of local structures and partners to ably engage government (both local and central) and other stakeholders to create adequate space for accessing basic social and economic resources. We will therefore work with partners, create alliances and networks, promote greater community and civil society participation and representation and build capacities around women’s right issues, education and just and democratic governance.
In this DA, the patriarchal nature of the society which preferred the education of boys to girls has resulted in the high rates of illiteracy among the female population. Though primary enrolment is estimated at 63% for girls and 65% for boys; in Freetown, the gross enrolment is estimated to be at 77% as compared to 61% in the rural areas, the dropout rates continue to increase especially for girls where the rate is estimated at about 25% (Census report 2004). This is due to factors such as early marriage, pregnancy and sexual harassment and violence meted out against them because of their gender.
Women and girls are mostly victims of violence and discrimination; and the domestics laws do not protect their rights even though Sierra Leone is signatory to most of the international treaties on rights of women. These gross human rights violations continue to increase at an alarming proportion even after the war. As a response, women’s movements and groups are mounting pressure on policy makers on the rights of women; this has resulted in the passing of 3 gender bills in parliament though only 2 have been signed into law by the president..
Although free primary education is enshrined in the constitution, access to education for the poor in the Western Area is costly and inferior and so the quality of education a child enjoys is determined by the parent’s financial status. Government with support from the World Bank and ADB are constructing schools, but the emphasis is on the government assisted schools. Community schools are being neglected though they cater for a large number of children in the communities. Other equally serious constraints are the unavailability of school supplies including school furniture, teaching and learning materials. Records show high untrained and unqualified teachers, high teacher and community facilitators’ attrition rate due to poor conditions of service and lack of incentives. There have been reports of misappropriation of subventions given to schools by government.
There are school management committees in most of the communities but they lack the capacity to meaningfully engage and effectively run their community managed schools.
For the past three years ActionAid International Sierra Leone concentrated in the 15 sponsorship communities because of the policy which states that we should implement programmes 6 months following linkage of children to supporters. We work with the poor and excluded people (mostly children, women, handicap) to help them secure access to food, water, education, healthcare, and the opportunity to earn a living. This is our starting point to develop awareness of their basic rights and entitlements as citizens. WADA recognises that it cannot do everything by itself and is therefore committed to working in partnership with local groups and organisations. Partnerships consist of collaboration, sub-contracting, institutional support, networking, and strategic alliances.
Summary of key achievements over the years on the DA’s priority themes
1. Women’s Rights
Although women constitute 51% of the country’s population, yet their involvement in the decision making process is minimal. Their poverty status and powerlessness make them vulnerable to violence and HIV and AIDS. The number of cases of HIV is increasing, especially among women, more than treatment services are being scaled up. Over the years our work seeks to address some of these issues and the gains made include:
- Provide leadership training for women
- Worked with FSU to address cases of GBV in particular violence against women
- Awareness raising campaigns on VAW and women’s rights issues
- Supported FAWE in advocacy campaigns on VAG in schools
- Provide livelihood support to women in the form of micro-credits
- Support to women farmers with tools, seeds and trainings
- Trained TBAs, construction of TBA houses and provided starter kits
- Strengthen and support to WLWHA
- Increased awareness raising on the importance of girl child education
2. Right to Education
The DA and partners have been working to ensure that children, especially girls, have free access to quality education that is empowering and respects the dignity of the girl child. The focus has been on community primary schools. Our work on this theme included:
- Construction/rehabilitation of community primary schools
- Provided support to community schools with teaching and learning materials
- Strengthening the capacity of SMCs in order to engage duty bearers on issues relating to education
- Support basic skills training for youths and the physically challenged
- Awareness raising on the education act of 2004 which calls for free primary education
- Increased awareness raising on the importance of girl child education
- Campaign on VAG in schools
3. Right to Just and Democratic Governance
The focus has been to promote greater community participation in decision making process
- Supported WABEAN on the tracking of specific sector budget
- Organized rural dialogue forum between civil society and policy makers
- Capacity building in advocacy skills for staff, partners and communities
- Build the capacity of women aspirants in participatory governance
- Advocate for government support to community schools
- Training of councillors and Ward committee members on financial management
- Worked with pressure groups to create space for women’s participation in politics
- Training on ELBA
4. Right to Human Security in Conflict and Emergencies
Our human security work focused on livelihood support to women’s groups as well as building the capacity of vulnerable youths in the area of skills training. The DA has made the following achievements:
- Training of BFVs to address cases of cholera outbreak at community level
- Construction of wells fitted with hand pump
- Construction of a dam at Kuntoloh to increase community access to safe and portable drinking water
- Training of pump caretakers
- Livelihood support to handicapped action movement(HAM)
- Setup a skills training centre at Moyemie for community youths
- Institutional support to AADC
5. Right to Food
The DA’s work on this theme has been:
- Supporting women farmers with cash, seeds and tools
- Providing training on basic agronomy practices
- Livestock restocking programmes for communities
- Advocate for government support to women farmers through Hunger Free campaigns