Evidence and Knowledge Demonstrating How SEND SL Built Connections in Communities.

SEND Sierra Leone is a non-profitable and non-governmental organisation that promotes good governance, voice, accountability for basic services and equality for women and men in Sierra Leone.

SEND Sierra Leone believes that development is a human right that provides men and women with equal opportunity to actively participate in and contribute to the political, economic and social transformation of their communities.

Communities are often overlooked as the most important drivers of development. This removes power and the ability to build real change. Older people, youth, women, persons with disability and widows were excluded from participating in community functions as society looked down upon them and tagged them as “vulnerable or taboo groups”. This problem was still prominent, even with the intervention of other NGOs.

However, strides were being made by SEND Sierra Leone in certain projects like the women empowerment projects which ensured that meetings and all project interventions were inclusive, regardless of status in society.

Even though the expectations of these groups are enormous, staff were able to better collaborate and strengthen the relationship with them.

But all of this, staff did not have the necessary tools to track the progress or involvement of this group of people. During mobilization, awareness raising and workshops in communities, nothing was done by staff to include everyone. This is because in certain communities it is a taboo to seat or mingle with persons with disability, other communities excluded women and youth from participating in decision making processes.  This perception led to the withdrawal of a lot of participants and resulted to low inclusion in community development.

SEND Sierra Leone, together with staff of Christian Aid under the SABI project, held a two-day workshop for staff on Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI), using the SABI GESI strategy, to enhance the relationship between the staff and the community stakeholders in promoting gender equality and social inclusion. This training was an eye-opener for staff, and it enabled them to discuss challenges, share experiences and identify the best ways to raise awareness for increased participation.

After the training SEND Sierra Leone reviewed all the reporting templates used in all projects, to ensure that they are GESI sensitive. The revised templates now serve as a guide for staff to adequately capture data on community involvement. It has also helped the organisation to track records on women, persons with disability and youth taking lead in decision making process and their active participation in community development projects.

SEND Sierra Leone has also emulated the model of SABI programs such as the development of actions plans across all projects and follow-ups. This helps communities to take ownership of developmental activities.

Stakeholders in communities now feel connected to their people, increased knowledge on GESI has boosted community participation.

Now, the organisation can track the number of women, persons with disability and youths taking active roles in their communities. Persons with disability are acting as champions in some project.

For SEND Sierra Leone, the GESI training has greatly enhanced and strengthened relationships among all actors and we have seen that project implementation is going on smoothly.

SEND Sierra Leone appreciates SABI, for introducing an all-inclusive and ethical approach (GESI) that has helped to improve engagements in other SEND projects in Sierra Leone.