By Mustapha Jallow
The training of over three hundred and twenty (320) Village Development (VDC) and Ward Development Committees (WDC) on the Local Government Act 2002 commenced on Tuesday.
The first training exercise was held at Kwinella village in Lower River Region (LRR). The event was organised by the National Council for Civil Education (NCCE) in partnership with United Nations Population Fund Agency (UNFPA).
According to NCCE officials, the beneficiary regions are Lower River, North Bank, Central River and Upper River. Beneficiaries were trained on the Local Government Act and the role of women and youths in the decentralization process and Covid-19 prevention.
The theme was: “strengthening decentralized structures for improve local government administration. 40 VDCs and WDCs will be trained in each region.”
In his official opening statement, Mr. Yusupha Bojang, the Program Manager of NCCE said the training was geared towards strengthening VDCs and WDCs decentralization structures in regions.
He added that they observed that there are gaps in terms of capacities of some grassroots structures, adding that it is critical to strengthen them in terms of decentralization because they are the foundation.
Mr Bojang noted that some of them find it difficult to implement their function or fulfill their mandate which sometimes result to problems between them and village heads, adding that the misunderstandings sometimes happened because they do not know where their mandate and responsibility stop.
He said: “Both of them have to work together to improve the wellbeing of their communities.”
He went on to say that the training is to give them the necessary tools to be able to effectively do their work to bring harmony among them so that they can enhance and sustain community development.
“The training is to also remind them about the roles and responsibilities of youth and women in decentralized structures.”
He highlighted that the target is inclusive participation as voices of women and youth should count in decision making processes to ensure there is peace at grassroots, ward and even regional level.
According to Bojang, some of them have access to the Local Government Act but reading to understand it is another issue as some of them are elderly and are not fortunate to be literate in English.
He concluded by calling on participants to disseminate the knowledge gained during the training as well as to be prepared to put into practice what they have learned.
Bakary Juwara, UNFPA National Program Associate said their mandate is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every child birth is safe and every young person realized their potential.
He noted that this was why they deemed it important to include VDCs and WDCs in the implementation of decentralized programs because they believe most vulnerable women are found within local communities.
He explained that VDCs are meant to bring development to communities and as such it is important they are trained to know their mandate, adding that youth and women inclusion in VDCs is critical to sustainable development.
Seedy Bah, Councilor Kwinella Ward described the training as timely as some VDCs and WDCs are not effectively functioning and some communities do not even have VDCs.
He highlighted that if village heads, VDCs and WDCs know their rights, responsibilities and mandates, their communities will develop easily.
During the group-work, a civic educator highlighted the conflict between the Alkalos and the members of the Village Development Committees (VDC), adding participants should look into such matters and work on them.
A native of Kwinella, Momodou Manneh accused some alkalos he said think that their communities belong to them. He added that this civic education training is timely as most of their Alkalos needed to undergo sensitization on the subject matter.
“We have a big problem with Alkalos,’’ he said.