Updated: Jul 27, 2021
One time I was in a community where most if not all decisions are
made by men and being a team leader in such a community was rather strange. On a certain day we organized a community tour, monitoring progress and meeting with the leaders. The good part was that all was organized and they were all ready waiting for us. I cannot recall the numbers but it was ALL men , (ok let me be fair, just one fine woman). Traditionally they drink alcohol on such occasions and they serve guests their best alcohol as well (one cannot say no, needless to go into how we then managed this politics of working and drinking at the same time).
In one community when we met the chief, everybody else had to lie down on the ground to show respect....I find it difficult to believe that these people engage among themselves otherwise likely everything goes top down.
In another community , we met with very old iliterate men and women one wonders if they understood what we were talking about.
In a certain place, we met a certain fine man working in a relevant Ministry and what he told us was really shocking , "....we have nothing and at the end of the day we do not want to waste time talking about technologies, benefits, whatsoever, and risk losing Aid, so please give us whatever you have,,,,,, however this is why you see most of our infrastructure is of poor quality, no-one supervises these works...."
In one place I was really amused by a certain old woman who said "..its only that the men pay to marry us as such they think they can lead us, if tables would be turned around and suddenly we are paying as well for these mem, I tell you we will be having different maintenance issues"
In another place..........the story can go on and on!
In essence we try and show that we have engaged communities, they are part of the decision making process, and they take ownership. I think in most of my experiences, I enjoyed the dynamics in communities and power structures. I learnt the politics of pleasing the donor as they saw us, I also and I continue to want to see through their eyes.
The problem is by the time I was getting comfortable and about to dive deep into real issues affecting the communities, either I had to leave or the project was closing or literally failed.
Today I am anyhow fully convinced that engaging communities is key, however I am yet to find the best way of doing it that :-
We are making good use of resources and the people benefit fully,
We are managing to implement within the prescribed timeframes,
We are flexible enough to find more time to learn,
We learn from the experiences before
I guess community engagement is for real, it is a donor requirement, governments call for it, politicians ride on it, projects survive, organizations get credibility , you name it.
I am still learning however...and one love!