Kezia, Nyarai and Natalie
News: Small Business Can Change the World
Small businesses matter. They play valuable roles in the lives of people and developing countries around the world; contributing to inclusive growth, employment, a more resilient economy, poverty alleviation and better development impacts for foreign direct investment. CAFOD's Thinking Small work explores the ways in which small businesses and farming enterprises can be supported and empowered so that they are able to help poor men and women step up and out of poverty.
Our work is at an exciting stage in terms of advocacy. On Wednesday 26th February we had a great event in parliament where we talked about why we think Thinking Small is so important – see the event write up here. Geoffrey Chongo from JCTR in Zambia joined us and spoke powerfully about the need for a pro-poor business enabling environment for small and micro businesses. We followed this with a blog series and online discussion looking at whether small businesses should be considered in donor and government private sector development strategies or economic development plans. In the blogs, we looked at the following:
· Small business fights poverty? By Alison Griffith, Senior Policy and Practice Advisor, Practical Action & Chair Bond Private Sector Working Group
· What is the Importance of Small and Medium Enterprises? The Case of Malawi By Alexander Mtsendero, Principal Enterprise Development Officer, Ministry of Industry and Trade, Malawi
· Do small, local businesses fit into DFID’s focus on economic development? By Adrian Stone, Team Leader, Investment Climate Team, DFID
· What is pro-poor business enabling environment? By Geoffrey Chongo, Head of Programmes, JCTR and Sarah Montgomery, Economic Justice Policy Analyst, CAFOD
You can view the online discussion here – feel free to leave your comments and thoughts.
We are also in the process of discussing next steps with various country programmes and if you’d like to chat or hear more please do be in contact! Also, if this is the first time you’re hearing about this work and would like some more background info, feel free to get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or make your voice heard on twitter: contact @SarahMonty1 / @CAFODwire #ThinkSmall
Profile: Fungayi Peter Zawi, Southern Africa Churches and Peace Programme Officer
Can you please briefly tell us about yourself?
Firstly, I am the Churches and Peace Programme Officer in Southern Africa. I joined CAFOD in June 2013 under the Regional Governance Team. I am responsible for managing three partners, Ecumenical Peace Observation Initiative (EPOIZ), which falls under the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference, the Zimbabwe Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) and the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA). My role is to provide technical support in areas of donor compliance and reporting for the different grants from EC, DFID and CAFOD internal funds.
Can you please share more information on the Churches and Peace programme in Zimbabwe?
The Churches and Peace programme contributes to the promotion of peace in Zimbabwe. Specifically the church seeks to engage relevant stakeholders particularly government and political parties, to make sure there is no violence in the country during and beyond elections. It’s a fight for sustainable peace, given the history of violence in the country.
What part of your role do you enjoy most?
I think I enjoy donor reporting. I am ardent to donor compliance.
To date, what have you found to be challenges of governance work in Zimbabwe?
In the current context of Zimbabwe, governance work is hampered by quite a number of issues. Firstly, government restrictions in operations have affected a number of NGOs, especially those that have been perceived as anti- government. The situation is more pronounced in rural areas where legitimacy of operation is usually denied through denial of registration. And in some cases, it’s not just about registration but also restrictions in areas of operation. Ultimately, organisations tend to dominate in some areas and not in others, limiting universal dissemination of critical information to citizens.
What do you foresee as the future of the Churches and Peace programme?
I think there are lots of opportunities for the church in contributing to peace in the country, building on what the church did pre- and post-elections over the past year. For example campaigning, advocacy and lobbying with the President, Prime Minister and political parties, opened a significant space for dialogue with the respective parties. Generally, the church is a strategic body of influence to politics in Zimbabwe and the programme has a greater leverage in building sustainable peace. At the moment there is a need for the church to go deeper, take advantage of the inroads established and continue engaging with the stakeholders to ensure implementation of recommendations.
What do you like to do when you are not working?
When I am not working, I really enjoy going to church, being with my family, going shopping and basically I love travelling. I really love travelling!
Any word of advice on the work you do?
You need to have passion for governance work: make sure you love your job. There are a lot of challenges that call for an extra mile, coupled with commitment. Yah really you need to be committed. You have to make sure you take issues of security seriously!
Interact: Happy Birthday
In June 2014, the Governance and Advocacy Community of Practice will celebrate its 1st birthday. Part of the birthday celebrations will include the CoP face-to-face meeting in Nairobi, Kenya during the week 16-20 June. To take advantage of having so many of us in one place, this week will also include ABG team and all-partner meetings, as well as an external panel event. We would like to have a dynamic and engaging week, and invite all core CoP members to share agenda ideas and suggestions. If you are interested in leading sessions on topics that are close to your heart, please get in touch!
Civil Society Space: Sierra Leone
A recent Advocacy Accompaniment visit to Sierra Leone highlighted some of the challenges which civil society organisations can face in speaking out in a post-conflict context. In post-war Sierra Leone civil society is, at first glance, active and vibrant. Passing through the villages on the main road out of Freetown you will see no shortage of signs announcing development projects implemented by international and domestic agencies working in partnership with government in areas such as health, education, WASH and peace-building.
However, for those CSOs involved in advocacy and governance work, such as tracking the spending of revenues from extractive industries or monitoring the activities of public bodies, the story is more complex. Late last year the Government of Sierra Leone issued a press release criticising CSOs for challenging government performance in areas like infrastructure and agriculture. This comes in the context of curbs on freedom of expression - a total of seven journalists have been arrested since October 2013 on charges of sedition after reporting on stories critical of government, including a land case. Disappointment at the ability of the Anti Corruption Commission to tackle misappropriation of resources further highlights the difficult environment for CSOs working on governance issues.
Conversations with CAFOD partners in Sierra Leone show how their day to day work is affected by the constraints on civil society space. One partner promoting the participation of young people in decision-making found themselves accused of ‘incitement’ by senior government officials – a charge which resonates heavily in a country where inter-generational tensions were a significant driver of past conflict. Suggestions of politicking were levelled at another who spoke out on youth justice issues, whilst others have found that work to engage communities has been undermined by rumours spread by local power holders. Another concern is the ‘divide and rule’ tactics identified by partners, which are employed by both companies and government in granting of contracts, grants and access to influence to CSOs. Behind these reactions seems to be authorities’ own fears – both of loss of power and especially, of young people, a culture of silence and reluctance to question authority, and a tendency of authorities to respond defensively to complainants.
One response from civil society has been to focus on a community empowerment model of advocacy in which the capacity and confidence of communities to raise issues with duty bearers is built. In this model CSOs avoid representing or speaking on behalf of communities and instead remain ‘behind the scenes’ working intensively at local level. This gives the work of the CSO legitimacy but also removes them from the limelight. However, in taking solely this approach, civil society may be avoiding realising their own power to bear expert witness on issues which cannot be solved purely at a local level. There is an argument to be had that advocacy by, with or on behalf of others are not mutually exclusive categories.
Carrying out advocacy and governance work in this post-conflict context is doubly difficult. Government structures are weak and are faced with a wealth of challenges inherited from the past and this peace remains fragile. So some CSOs respond by avoiding engaging directly with or criticising government for fear of undermining the stability of structures that have been established. But without greater participation in and accountability of government for decision-making such as about extractives industries and revenues, basic services are unlikely to improve and the root causes of the conflict will remain unaddressed.
Methods: Ever considered mobile advocacy?
Mobile technology is changing the world more quickly and profoundly than any other innovation. The scale of uptake and the impact in local communities are too important to be ignored in advocacy. Among the various mobile applications, one mobile service which has taken the world by storm is the Short Message Service (SMS). The catalytic nature of SMS in advocacy comes in mobilising for support, appealing for action and communicating with communities, among others. In search for concrete data to support their campaign against the destruction of resources including depletion of fish stocks, CAFOD partner NAFSO in adopted the Frontline SMS technique. Notable cases include Freedom Fone in Zimbabwe providing a citizens’ platform for debate on the constitution, and the Infornet citizens’ platform in Kenya to gather and disseminate national budget information. It’s time to exploit the opportunity of reaching the margins of society through SMS service, spicing and tailoring it to your goal.