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Strengthening government structures to create demand for social services

Orientation on key family care practices
© UNICEF Uganda
Agan conducts a training session on Early Childhood Development and improved nutrition practices

By Kenneth Mulondo

UNICEF Uganda works with the Government of Uganda to support the achievement of Vision 2040 by transforming the Ugandan society from a peasant to a modern and prosperous country within 30 years.

Of particular importance to this development process is the strengthening of the role of the Community Development Officers at district level that falls under Community and Literacy Development in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development. This intervention is serving as an entry point into communities to increase the adoption of pro – early childhood development and improved nutrition practices.

The District Community Development Office is headed by the District Community Development Officer who has designated Community Development Officers at sub-county level. This team is tasked with improving the quality of life for various groups within the community and are engaged in all the different departments within the District and Sub – County levels. They play a pivotal role supporting the health, education and agriculture departments among others.

With the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, UNICEF Uganda with financial support from UKaid is supporting the Community Development Officers to roll out the Functional Adult Literacy and also Parish Development Committees programmes. It is envisaged that these two components will provide the required results in demanding for services that will yield the early childhood development and improved nutrition practices to benefit and transform lives of community members.

This strategy of working within the existing government structures at district level is reinforced by some of the key lessons shared by Ms. Agan Mary Apuun, the Napak District Community Development Officer.

“People can’t demand for what they don’t know. I have recognized the difference between successful and unsuccessful programmes that have been initiated in the district. Those that have worked have had the Community Development Officers play a critical role in preparing communities to receive and demand for social services that are aimed at improving their lives,” said Ms. Agan.

She also narrated how Community Development Officers have been instrumental in supporting the back to school campaigns supported by UNICEF in Napak District.

“Through Community dialogue meetings with the communities, the Community Development Officers were able to jointly address the factors hindering school enrollment and completion with parents and community leaders. Some of these factors include child marriages and child migration (children coming to urban centers to become “street children”) which are common practices that needed continuous attention to resolve them,” Ms. Agan highlighted.

The Napak District Education Department confirms that the back to school campaigns in 2015 contributed to the recorded increase in primary school enrollment of approximately 5 per cent amongst the boys and 11 per cent amongst the girls.

Building on such a positive foundation, UNICEF Uganda has supported the Government of Uganda to train at least 160 Parish Development Committee (PDC) members and 40 Functional Adult Literacy facilitators. It is envisaged that these personnel will provide the required social support that will lead to the required behavioral change amongst the families in Napak District.

Mr. Thomas Loru, a Functionality Adult Literacy (FAL) Facilitator from Nangule -Angolol Village shares that “the capacity building for FAL in Nutrition and ECD was timely since the community members hold them in high regard as the key resource persons”

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