What are CMAGs?
Despite the natural resource wealth of the region, the Niger Delta remains under-developed, suffering insecurity and very high rates of unemployment. Over time this has contributed to a distrust and disconnect between the public and duty bearers (elected politicians and officials). In an attempt to bridge this divide, SDN worked within communities to create Community Monitoring and Advocacy Groups (CMAGs) across communities in Rivers and Bayelsa states to engage duty bearers on their communities’ priorities for development and service delivery.
What was the new training for?
From 24th to 25th November 2020, SDN delivered a refresher training to CMAG members based across Rivers State. This additional training supported new people who had joined CMAGs in their communities after the original training was delivered to understand their roles and responsibilities, and how they can support in bringing development to their communities. A total of 36 participants were present, following Covid-19 guidelines. The two-day training consisted of presentations, breakout sessions, role playing, and an illustrated handbook.
The training objectives were to:
- Help everyone understand the purpose of CMAGs.
- Identify approaches that make it more likely CMAG advocacy will result in development on the ground that meets the needs of the community.
- Improve understandings of duty bearer responsibilities and engagement options.
Focusing on who and how CMAGs represent development priorities
Diversity and inclusion of marginalised groups was sought in CMAG members (50/50 split of men and women where possible, and not lower than 60/40 women) and participants in this training to reduce the potential for the development priorities of traditionally marginalised groups being overlooked. This is particularly important as these groups are often in most acute need. Training also included how to find out what the broader development priorities of participants’ respective communities are, and how to identify the duty bearers that are able to influence or are responsible for those. A range of advocacy methods were covered including:
- Seeking audience through letters
- One-to-one informal meetings
- Use of media
- Use of social media
- Deploy peaceful protests to targeted duty bearers
- Using networks to attract attention
Sharing participants own knowledge
Training participants also shared their own knowledge with one another. New CMAG member, Mr Precious Alee, the Ward Chairman of Nonwa Community, said
“as a politician and one who has tasted power, I want to thank SDN for training us on this leadership and advocacy skill because I know it will go a long way. I also want to advise my colleagues not to go for personal interests like money or jobs when visiting politicians. They talk a lot, so if you go and beg for money, they will talk about you and rubbish your work. Let us instead task each other to support our work”
In addition, Patrick Fubara charged all old members present to take time to teach the new ones. In his words;
“we have had a lot of training on rights, leadership training, advocacy training and the likes. Let us use our experience and the materials we have to teach the new ones[members]. That way they will come to understand how the [CMAG] group works”.
Each participant was given copies of the CMAG handbook, designed to sustain CMAGs in the longer term, providing the basis to induct new members as well as remind existing members of key guidance. CMAG members left the training feeling inspired, and were outspoken in their commitment to secure a better quality of life for everyone living in their communities.
CMAGs have already had tangible impacts in their communities, securing new drainage on a critical link road to stop it being frequently flooded in Nonwa community, repair broken draining to prevent waterborne illness during the wet season in Kpite community, and rebuild and staff a previously demolished school in Ogu community. SDN wants to scale up this success, helping communities across the Niger Delta create their own CMAGs to campaign for higher collective standards of living.