Creating a culture of citizen participation in local governance

“Studying in Australia gave me the tools and knowledge to better understand good governance, the relevance of public participation, and the issues related to government accountability. It increased my awareness about the importance of all these aspects for human development.”

Australia Awards Alumni Magondeni Simango has been playing an important role in facilitating community engagement in Mozambique, and her efforts are making a positive difference. Community participation in local governance is not only a key ingredient of accountability, but is also a mechanism to ensure that the voice of community members is heard in aspects that have a direct impact on their socio-economic wellbeing.

Upon completing a Masters of Public Policy and Management, funded by the Australian Government at Monash University in 2011, Magondeni returned to her native Mozambique, where her enhanced knowledge and skills are being put to good use. Currently, she manages a community engagement project called Dialogue at the Civil Society Learning and Capacity Building Centre. Dialogue brings together urban communities, media, local government and other actors in efforts to improve governance and accountability.

Magondeni is based in Tete, the capital of Tete province, which is situated in central Mozambique. Since large deposits of coal were found in the province in recent years, exploration has started, coupled with heightened civil society activism that is directed at ensuring that the benefits generated by natural resources reach both rural and urban communities in Tete. Improving governance and responsiveness are important elements of such efforts.

Since 2012, Dialogue seeks to enhance the relationship citizen-municipal government in urban areas of Mozambique. The program operates across five municipalities located in five different provinces, including Tete. Magondeni manages the program implementation in Tete.

In 2013, Magondeni worked with three civic groups, two municipal authorities (Municipal Assembly and the City Council) and three local communities through the Dialogue program. These different stakeholders benefitted from workshops, debates, public forums and other community-local government engagement activities. Sixty members of civic groups benefitted from specialised training in 2013. Furthermore, Dialogue engaged two influential politicians, held three public debates and aired one radio and one television debate involving community members in discussions around citizen rights and responsibilities in local governance.

The efforts in 2013 culminated in the preparation of Local Community Action Plans by three communities. Community members and civic groups contributed to preparing these plans, which outline what they expect from their local governments in term of improvements in their communities. These plans will inform the preparation of the next Municipal Government Action Plan in the three benefitting communities.

Magondeni is enthusiastic about doing more outreach activities in 2014. The Dialogue program is expected to gradually increase the number of benefitting civic groups.

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