ToroDev’s Johnstone Kumaraki gives a Press Release on the Launch of the ToroDev/RJF Monthly Press Conference & Tracfm Polling Initiative on June 26th, 2014 at ToroDev Office, Fort Portal

ToroDev with support from National Endowment for Democracy & the Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions (SPIDER) supported the initiation of the Rwenzori Journalists’ Forum in 2012. This broadcast and print media forum has been, since two years, re-organizing itself to become a viable, relevant and independent institution to champion the voices of local citizens in the Rwenzori region.  Also to note is that, ToroDev, in partnership with Rwenzori Journalist Forum (RJF) ToroDev has also been training radio journalists selected from the 13 FM radio stations based and broadcasting in seven districts of the region on promoting public accountability for improved service delivery broadcasting.

Moreover, with support from SIDA and the ICT4Democracy Network in East Africa, ToroDev visited Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC) and were able to learn some of the initiatives NUMEC uses to improve knowledge and information sharing for development. NUMEC conducts regular press conferences at regular intervals attended mostly by local leaders to give accountability and this has proved successful in ensuring good governance through proper accountability at regular intervals. ToroDev has also decided to borrow a leaf and initiate a monthly press conference for this region. It will be attended by local and central government leaders (Ministers, MPs, LCV’s Councilors, LCIII’s, Technocrats, etc) and local citizens for giving updates and receiving accountability for improved service delivery, respectively.
ToroDev, in partnership with Rwenzori Journalist Forum (RJF), have the pleasure to launch this Regional Monthly Press Conference Initiative now, June 26th 2014, to improve service delivery through advocacy and promoting timely accountability in the seven (7) districts of the Rwenzori Region. This press conference will be held on a monthly basis. Leaders at all levels and leaders are all invited to attend every month on a specific date that we shall be announcing. Today, we have held this maiden event here at ToroDev Offices at Plot 46 Mugurusi Road. In future as demand may arise, we might change the venue of this monthly event and communications on radio and other channels would be made in due course.

Today also, we have a great opportunity to launch the Tracfm Polling Initiative in partnership with Tracfm, a non-profit ICT for Development Organisation based in Kampala and The Netherlands. This initiative will allow local citizens to interact with their leaders on issues that really matter to then as far as service delivery is concerned. It is totally a cost-free Citizen-leader interaction on the side of the local population. ToroDev and Tracfm are responsible to meeting the cost of this interaction. What the local person needs to do is to listen to a local FM radio station every day and get the issue/topic/question being discussed, and then send his opinion/comment to ToroDev and partners. They will collect this data together; publish this information and what the majority people in a community/district/sub-county will be saying will be forwarded to the specific leaders for attention.

ToroDev Monitoring & Evaluation team tracks the impact of Advocacy Forums

In April 2014, ToroDev M&E team held a monitoring and Evaluation activity to track the impact of the Advocacy Forums and rural monitors in monitoring service delivery and demanding accountability from the local leaders in the districts of Kabarole, Kyenjojo, Kyegegwa, Bundibugyo, Kasese and Ntoroko. The activity acted as a way of motivating, encouraging, strengthening and empowering the Advocacy forums and rural monitors, and assisting the project team to study and know the activity plans, needs, challenges, achievements, changes and future plans of the advocacy forums and the one hundred and twenty (120) rural monitors.

Members of Kasese Youths and Women’s Forum.

During the activity, ToroDev M&E team found out that women and youths are now finding it more interesting and benefiting to join advocacy forums so as to work hand in hand with their local and political leaders in an organized way. “We joined the forum to fight for the rights of women in Kasese District and the entire Rwenzori Region because despite great strides made by the international women’s rights movement over many years, women and girls in Kasese and Uganda are still exposed to marriage at an early age and trafficked into forced labour and sex slavery. Women are denied education and participation in politics.

Around the villages in Kasese District, deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth is needlessly high, and women are denied the right to make deeply personal choices in their private lives.

As a way of advocating for our rights, we joined Kasese Youths and Women’s Forum”, said Masika Flavia, the Chairperson of Kasese Youths and Women’s Forum.

During the activity, ToroDev M&E team also found out that advocacy forums have continued to hold accountability meetings with their local leaders. “As forum members, we meet three times a month so as to handle people’s issues. During the meetings, we also discuss how to present our issues to leaders or on radio and we also first hold an internal meeting before calling for a bigger meeting with leaders”, said Tibenda Steven, the secretary of People’s Rights and Forum for Development in Mugusu Sub County, Kabarole District.

Forum members have also endeavored to open up offices with monthly financial support from ToroDev so as to make their work easier.
“We opened up an office in February 2014 after we had got the monthly support from ToroDev and this has helped us to do our work in an organized way.
This has also helped us to be recognized by the local people who easily access us and raise their community issues/concerns.
The office has also helped us to have a place for both internal and public accountability meetings”, said Rwaheru Gilbert, the Chairperson of Kicwamba Forum for Development and Service Delivery.
“Our offices are open five days a week with an office attendant to attend to people’s issues. Local people no longer go to the LCI chairpersons but they approach us to help them talk to these leaders. This has helped in improving services, respecting human rights, freedom of speech and expression and demanding for accountability and better services”, said Tibeeha John Bosco, the secretary for Bufunju People’s Forum in Bufunjo Sub County, Kyenjojo District.
Meanwhile, ToroDev team also realized that services have been improved due to the efforts of the advocacy forums and radio talk shows. “Our Advocacy forum has acted as an eye opener for the local citizens through sensitizing them about information access and encouraging them to listen to radio accountability talk shows and also demanding accountability from the local leaders. Through our monitoring activities, we advocated for Butiiti Health Center III to get a latrine”, said Jane the Chairperson of Youths and Women advocacy Forum in Butiiti Sub County, Kyenjojo District.
However, there is need for more financial support to enable the rural monitors move widely to monitor service delivery. There is also need to encourage and motivate them through trainings especially in using appropriate ICT tools for governance and improving their participation on the live radio discussions. Rural monitors also need more equipment like laptops, photo cameras and recorders to ensure a coordinated and persistent monitoring of service delivery.