Because of the ‘Citizen Forums’, I am an advisor in my village.
Through the Citizen Forum, we have been able to get linked to different areas of Bwishyura Sector so that we can share ideas. I was destined to educate my children at home but since I joined this group it led me to know more, which made me an advisor in our village.
For example Ubudehe money is designed for the vulnerable, but sometimes the village leader is offering it to his relative or friends. At the time this case happened, I humbly approached officials in my village and told them giving that money to friends or relatives is wrong, because government assistance is for vulnerable people and it is their right to get it.
I am now a link between citizens and the leaders – especially when it comes to the vulnerable – and while linking these two, we don’t issue commands but we use the “convince to change” speech. NAR shook me up and gave me different responsibilities. Now whenever someone speaks about his or her problem, I just want to help even if he or she cannot approach me.
(Karongi District Citizens’ Forum), Age: 44
These forums compelled service provider to deliver better services.
Before joining the Citizen Forum, I was a greedy and morally corrupt woman who lived only for herself. I would go to the hospital and pass others because I was familiar to the receptionists.
Ever since I joined the Citizen Forum, I became selfless and started standing up for others. People would get sick and go to traditional healers instead of the health centre due to the bad service. NAR organized a meeting with leaders where we raised this problem, and now services are delivered effectively and efficiently at Kibuye Hospital. Some people had no compost, they used to deposit waste in bushes. I approached the Village Chairman, and he also took it to the cell level so that they can provide us with a public wastes ground and now that ground is available. I also helped people who had a problem paying land taxes yet their land was used in Ubudehe road construction. I approached the person in charge and told him about that issue and he told me to inform those people that they have to bring their land certificates to the sector. This problem has not yet been solved because some people have not yet taken their certificates back, but those who brought their certificates were helped.
(Karongi District Citizens' Forum), Age: 43
Leadership was not clear for me but ever since I joined the citizen forum, I understand good leadership values.
In our Citizen Forum, we share ideas about health services and leadership services. People are now up to date about their rights. There was a sector council meeting after realized the role of the Citizen Forum in our sector. The Citizen Forum pushed me to become a member of youth representatives due to the skills and confidence I got from it. The citizen forum made me someone else, because before I could not attend any meeting (even Umuganda) but now I have realized that as youth I can contribute to the development of the country more than my elders. Now I am a peer educator of my fellows as well as my community.
Speaking about the facts of our realities with confidence has made me a link between leaders and the population, because people take me as someone who can stand for them.
(Karongi District Citizens’ Forum), Age: 30
The Citizen Forum has taught me to appreciate human rights.
Before joining this citizen forum, I thought that a leader helps a person if he or she wants to, but now this group has taught me about human rights in all kinds of aspects of life: politics, education, health, agriculture, and religion.
Before, I was not interested in helping others, but through the citizen forum I am able to work with others and stand up for them whenever possible. Participation in Umuganda was too low before the forum campaigned for innovating its working plan. People would not even consider it as public work but as a job for leaders. NAR organized a sensitizing walk where it was every member’s duty to move among his or her village while sensitizing people about Umuganda program and it was very successful. This was a big pleasure and a great result for us. I am now a speaker and MC due to the skills I got from the citizen forum.
(Karongi District Citizens' Forum), Age: 68
Citizens now trust me because I represent and relay their issues to leaders.
I have been a member of different cooperatives but ever since I heard about the Citizen Forum and became a member, I really learnt more. It helped me to get more information about all cells in the Bwishyura Sector. People trust me based on how I represent them and expose their issues to leaders. We are like advisors of leaders due to how we directly collaborate with population, sharing ideas and helping them and solve their problems. This made us trusted in our society.
Example: There was no way for citizens in our sector to know the projects planned for them and where to express their ideas. Our team decided to create a suggestion box at the sector office. The citizens then had a way to give their ideas, especially those who are shy to talk in public. This was a solution for the leaders, because they checked out those ideas and found out perfect solution.
This makes the authorities trust the citizen forum in Bwishyura based on how it intervenes in the government’s activities. The citizen forum helped me learn more things regarding the needs of citizens. It helped me to trust myself and to be open to my family. Based on how we help in the daily life of our neighbours, the NAR team has become a solution to all. In our village, my neighbours considered me a link between them and the local authorities.
(Karongi District Citizens' Forum), Age: 70
DISCLAIMER: In order to protect the identity of the contributors only first names of participants have been used.