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FEATURE STORY

Empowered Communities Raise Their Voices, Change Their Lives

July 8, 2013

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • More than 750 communities in Sudan have benefitted from the Community Development Fund Project (CDF)
  • The CDF project supports community initiatives in health services, water, education and solar power
  • Previously disenfranchised communities are now empowered to participate in the development of their community and garner government support

Maman, Talkook Locality, Kassala State, July 8, 2013 – Maman Village in East Sudan will never again be known as a “foolish” village.

Once famous in the region for not having formal education for its children, the village now has a new basic school with two classrooms for education through the eighth grade. The school and teacher dorms are solar powered, and there is a water supply to quench the thirst of children who walk long distances to the school.

“Before this school was built, our sons didn’t have much to do,” said Mohammed Ali, an elder in the Maman community. “Today our sons are learning new things.”

The boys of Maman, from the Talkook locality comprised of about 20 communities, are not the only ones going to school. Girls in nearby Talkook Village are also allowed to attend school, which is a change for the religiously conservative community.

“Our communities are against girl’s education, but within such a conservative community we have managed to have our daughters enrolled,” said Madani Ohaj Madani, a member of the Talkook community. “In my opinion, girls should finish their education; we need these girls to grow up and help with the development of the community.”

These are just a few of the changes spurred by the Community Development Fund Project (CDF), which helps war-torn communities throughout Sudan make their development dreams a reality. Since 2005, the CDF has helped more than 750 communities open health clinics, build schools, create water sources, implement solar power – and even build community centers.

“The reason for the success of CDF in Talkook is that the Fund worked with the community and according to what the community wants,” said Ahmed Bitay, Maman Commissioner of Talkook Locality.

But the success of the project doesn’t end there. Not only did CDF supply new buildings, furnishings and equipment, but by involving communities in the decision-making and development process, the CDF has also empowered communities throughout the country.

“Some of these communities have never received any development interventions at all,” said Mohamed Osman Mohammed, project coordinator for the CDF project in Kassala State. “They did not even know enough about education to even ask for education. They did not know why it is important for their children, for animals, for agriculture, for health. Now they know how to ask.”

The CDF also helped build better communication between the community and the government, said Endashaw T. Gossa, World Bank senior operations officer for the CDF. In North Kordofan State, for example, the communities and state government worked together to come up with an innovative water support plan.

“When the CDF started working, the community said if we are going to use this money to build any water point, we need to own it,” Gossa said. “It really took time to work with the state government but finally, the state government allowed communities to own their water supply with oversight from the water corporation.”

This collaboration led to shared maintenance responsibilities as well as shared income, Gossa said. “Now I think the government has also realized that this approach is working, it’s cost effective and this is the best way of providing services,” he said.

Although the CDF project is coming to a close, Gossa said the impact of the project will continue with the government’s investment and support. Over the next few months, the CDF will be transitioned to be run solely by the government, with the promise to provide resources for the next five years. And now that previously disenfranchised communities have found their voice, Gossa said that it reduces the possibility that conflict will arise again.

 “The conflict is triggered in those who feel left behind,” Gossa said. “Addressing some of these gaps is giving a chance for peace.”

The Community Development Fund Project (CDF) is one of 15 projects funded by the Multi-Donor Trust Fund-National (MDTF-N). With US$40 million, nine countries and the World Bank contributed to reconstruction and development needs of war-affected areas of Sudan in health services, water, education and solar power. Funding for the MDTF-N ended June 30, 2013.