Women Safe Spaces for Reconciliation groups working with HZT in mainstreaming gender and peace building in Masvingo Province have embarked on public interface meetings and awareness forums. The women from Gutu, Bikita and Zaka formed Community Accountability Action Teams (CAAT) in an effort to increase women’ voices in local and national policy frameworks on governance, democracy, peace-building and conflict resolution issues. CAAT is a group of women and youths from diverse political and socio-economic backgrounds working together to build peace and demand social accountability from duty bearers.
CAAT members have been trained in Community social accountability, governance and democracy. The training helped to strengthen and deepen women and youths’ democratic participation at the lowest level of their communities and capacitating them to hold duty bearers to account.
In September 2016, CAAT members carried out a series of door to door campaigns targeting women and youths. These campaigns managed to raise awareness on the need for social accountability and educating community members on their constitutional rights. The campaigns were well received by communities who applauded the CAAT members for encouraging women to participate effectively in decision making processes that include budget consultations and food aid registration processes. Added to this, the women strategically targeted public areas such as shopping centres and health centres where they carried out clean up awareness raising campaigns that targeted the general public.
From 24 -28 October 2016, the CAATs held 4 Community interface meetings in Zaka, Bikita and Gutu. The meetings offered an opportunity for community members to engage with duty bearers on critical human rights issues. All the 4 meetings were attended by a total of 308 people, with 192 being women. Some of the issues discussed include shortage of water, unfair selection of Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) beneficiaries and unfair food aid distribution which the communities noted that it fuels conflicts in communities. The CAATs have also been monitoring and recording human rights violations in their areas and facilitating for victims to report their cases to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC).
The meetings were attended by traditional leaders, village health workers, neighbourhood watch committee members, Schools Development Committees, Ward Development Committee (WADCO) members, Village Development Committee members (VIDCO) and community members.
The CAATs have scheduled more accountability forums with Senators, Members of Parliament, Councillors and Chiefs in their respective areas in a niche to promote democracy, accountability, transparency and active citizens. The CAATs also intend to bridge the gap between rights holders and duty bearers by providing insights on how communities (rights holders) can actively engage authorities (duty bearers) at different levels to account for their actions and fulfil their responsibilities towards improving the welfare of communities.
Social Accountability is a process that empowers citizens to make government, local authorities and public office bearers responsive and committed to the people’s needs and demands. The process gives rights holders the power to demand quality service provision and responsiveness from duty bearers. This is expected to lead to better governance, pro-poor policies and programmes and citizen empowerment.