ZimRights empowers community-based organisations

HARARE - Thirteen community-based organisations (CBOs) from across the country recently trained in project management, information dissemination and financial probity so as to enhance their capacity to represent community interests.

Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) trained the CBOs in Bulawayo for two days at a workshop also attended by partners such as the Election Resource Centre (ERC) and the Zimbabwe Coalition of Community Based Organisations (ZiCBO).

Academic and development expert Solomon Mungure, who was the main facilitator, said there was a big gap between the development potential of communities and their current levels of development in the country which the CBOs as grassroots development agencies could help to narrow.

“We have not achieved much in terms of closing the gap between our potential and our realisation. The role of ZimRights, CBOs and all organisations that are here is to close the gap, to make the potential closer to the realisation. CBOs are now the new drivers of change,” said Mungure.

The academic added that Zimbabweans were part of the “bottom billion”, with the rural people more vulnerable to poverty, and urged community leaders to think of development as local in scope, saying: “If as CBOs you do not think of changing the life of your neighbour, but think of changing Zimbabwe you are lost.”

The two-day seminar also brought to the fore the challenges that the communities are faced with such as struggles for communal land, the effects of mining ventures to those living in the shadow of their operations, and imposition of traditional leaders such as village heads by politicians.

Mungure said human rights must be thought of as part of the nation building exercise and broader development agenda.

“If we do not think of that as a nation-building exercise, human rights become small things,” Mungure said.

“We still want human rights to be embedded in the development of our country.”

Speaking at the seminar, ZimRights director Okay Machisa urged community-based organisations to follow a non-partisan approach in order to successfully pursue their objectives as impartial catalysts in the development efforts and human rights discourse.

“We want you to stand alone and free from political interference so that when you do your work as watchdogs you will be effective. Whoever threatens our rights, we are easily able to challenge them if we are not partisan. Our objective is not to side with, or attack any political parties, but to address issues of public interest,” said Machisa.

Zimbabwe Digital Society’s Tawanda Mugari trained the organisations on how to use new mobile technology as easier and cheaper communication tools to aid the development process.

Mugari urged CBOs to utilise the centrality of ZimRights to have consolidated information on developments in communities.

After the seminar, the participants travelled from the conference venue to Nkulumane for a field visit to appraise themselves of the work being carried out by Victory Siyanqoba, a local arts and advocacy organisation, under their innovative project called the Laundry Café.

The Laundry Café brings together women of all ages in the Bulawayo suburb to discuss issues of their human rights and service delivery, following the norm that community women usually gather to wash clothes together discussing topical issues.

ZimRights vice chairperson Takesure Musiiwa discussed the logic behind the organisation’s partnerships with CBOs, despite its own nationwide community presence and structures.

“If ZimRights operates with a CBO in Mashonaland East for instance, it does not mean it cannot be doing work in that province on its own,” said Musiiwa. “But we are realising that there is more value in working together with a CBO in Mashonaland East. We have to empower the people of Mashonaland East to stand on their own.”

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