JOINT Contribution to Strengthen and Expand Democracy in Mozambique
The project aimed to increase the knowledge and capacities of local organizations and marginalized groups; enhance dialogue among civil society and marginalized groups, private sectors and the government; and ensure participation of marginalized groups in the democratic processes and achievement of advocacy for civil rights protection and promotion. The project was implemented in seven districts of Manica province, in central Mozambique.
While the project correctly identified issues of political participation and NGO capacity building that were of genuine concern in Manica province, there were weaknesses in project design – the project did not directly address the structural and operational weaknesses of NGOs. And while the project’s expected outcomes were weaker than planned, the fact that the activities that were planned in a remote province, in locations that were sometimes difficult to to access because of weather conditions and occasional political violence, was in itself a significant achievement
Lessons from Project
Many of the situations that arose during the dialogue with communities and theatre audiences surpassed the capacity for support and advice that could be offered by the theatre groups, female counsellors and/or advocacy groups involved int he project. Being able to call on the support of specialized professionals – lawyers, therapists, social workers – working in the field of domestic violence and sexual abuse of children is one aspect that needs to be strengthened.
The geographic scope of the project was a little ambitious given the qualitative changes that were being pursued and the desire to consolidate and capitalize on the results. Focusing activities in a more limited geographical space would have made it easier to go into more depth and to sustain the results.
The project empowered women who had become victims of violence, and encouraged them to participate in the production and performance of theatre plays based on a critical analysis of their own experiences, stories and testimonies. The integration of positive messages and models of masculinity into the theatre performances provided a way to strengthen the building of relationships based on respect and equity.
The young people involved have repeated the performances in their schools and communities. The response by the audience was highly positive and the use of debates and forums fostered public participation and led to greater awareness of and respect for the status of women in Nicaraguan society.
Art and theatre can be innovative tools for mobilizing popular opinion and can contribute to a change in attitudes. Using art and theatre has also strengthened the capacity and visibility of the grantee in particular its ability to organize. Theatre productions and performances empowered the participants – not just in terms of artistic skills – but also enhanced their knowledge of their rights and confidence to claim them. The theatre groups used this opportunity to strengthen their relationship with civil society actors and local government entities.
The grantee put in place effective instruments to follow up on the achievements of the project so that they could verify that the skills and knowledge about women’s rights and the implementation of the law on violence against women were being put into practice.
The project lacked a media strategy to raise awareness about governance issues. Although references were made in the project document to addressing journalists at local level, there were no specific plans to develop an advocacy or media strategy. This could have involved, for example, the systematic use of local community radios to spread the project’s messages about governance.
The main partner NGOs in Manica and the grantee designed the project collaboratively. The NGOs in Manica were concerned that their capacity would be stretched by the ambitious expected project outcomes. Their concerns were not reflected in the design, and the final proposal to UNDEF maintained the three-pronged approach of NGO capacity building, government dialogue and legal aid. The capacity building provided to NGOs was essentially on specific rights awareness and governance skills, but was not designed to address NGOs’ structural/operational weaknesses.
The government dialogue element relied on a degree of goodwill on the part of provincial executives. This was not always forthcoming The project design had made little contingency provision to address a lack of political will to cooperate with the project.
The project would have benefited significantly from a more rigorous design, including a more specific analysis of the conditions that need to be achieved to fulfill planned outcomes. Specific activities should have been built in, such as an advocacy and media strategy. Training sessions and workshops should have been repeated and followed up. The project would have been more effective if the grantee had ensured more ownership of the project design by partner NGOs.
Staff and lawyers from NGOs working in remote districts were very pro-active in engaging with vulnerable groups. This had a marked impact on local community members who were clearly interested in legal assistance. Their awareness of the legal framework – even in the absence of actual lawsuits – may be considered a form of impact. Similarly, the involvement of staff and lawyers in local dialogue forums has contributed, according to some participants, to local officials’ enhanced awareness of the legal framework concerning accountability on such issues as disclosure of budgets and expenses.
Some of the local NGOS involved gained a degree of recognition from the local authorities which was important. Most local NGOs operate without official registration, or with registration only at provincial level. Some interviewees suggested that the project helped them achieve a degree of credibility and legitimacy with local authorities, which might be conducive to them developing a better working relationship with government.