By Leroy Maisiri
The Transforming lives programme is set to run between 2018-2020 in six pilot countries, namely Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia, Malawi and South Africa. All six of these countries have a large youth population, all facing the same social economic problems. Even more interesting all six of these countries within the Transforming Lives programme timeline will have experienced shifts and changes within the political climate of each nation.
The government of Lesotho just carried out its elections in the year 2017, Zimbabwe has recently taken to the polls at the end of July 2018, while Swaziland in September 2018. Malawi and South Africa both host their national elections in the year 2019, and lastly Zambia in 2021. Essentially the SAFAIDS programme has the unique advantage of working with newly appointed governments given the programme leans heavily on wanting to change national level policy across the region. It seems the stars have aligned.
Given the demographic nature of all six countries, the youth have become the cornerstone and focus point of the electoral process, but are seemingly always marginalized from any other process that yields direct results in the betterment of the youth, in this case placing a focus on sexual reproductive health services. There is no doubt that for this project to be a success the youth themselves must be equipped and capacitated to be able to carry out their own Social Accountability Monitoring (SAM). This is the necessary transition required to move away from the view that the youth are just another political vehicle for votes to actually getting meaningful engagement from the youth and growing citizen participation.
MobiSAM is an innovative tool that aims to support the SAM process. In recent years there has been a rise in the use of information and communication technology (ICT) and digital technology, allowing for greater accountability by government and citizens over health care services and systems. While the Transforming Lives project has opted to adopt the popular Public Service Accountability Monitoring (PSAM) approach, this is essentially a conceptual approach with five main processes that make up a social accountability system through which the state is accountable to its citizens on an on-going basis. The challenge lies at ensuring that the SAM toolkit is understandable and digestible amongst the youth. The PSAM approach evolves around Strategic Planning and Resource Allocation, Expenditure Management, Performance Management, Public Integrity Management, and Oversight. All five of these stages rely on evidence collected as data and technical document analysis, ranging from high-level audits, budgetary analysis, and understanding of National policy and how it translates all the way to local government.
As such it is essential that a youth-friendly toolkit bridges the gap between the high-level analysis required in the PSAM approach and a mid-level analysis that actually empowers the youth to be able to actively participate in social accountability as active engaging citizens around sexual reproductive health.
The SAM youth toolkit should supplement some of the PSAM stages allowing for digestible youth friendly engagement. MobiSAM as a tool primarily is able to efficiently capture a plethora of focused data around the key SRH issues, the SAM toolkit should then be able to empower the youth to be able to monitor, review and act on the data provided.
Monitoring as a supplementary stage to the PSAM approach would act as its own monitoring mechanism similar to the performance management stage found IN the PSAM approach. Here the youth can monitor the data collected and use it as a yardstick to see the amount of progress, if any, towards the attainment of the agreed strategic objectives and commitments towards quality SRH services.
Reviewing will mean that the youth are firstly capacitated by SAFAIDS and like-minded Civil Society Organisations reviewing the implementation of national plans and strategies around ensuring quality SRH services. That means the youth must as part of their social accountability process be involved in collecting and verifying the data, understanding what their own data means to them. Following this is key stakeholder engagement about this data. The youth should be at the center of community and CSO based mobilisations around this data, finding outlets for it and creating spaces for critical engagement with the data.
The last stage is to Act. The PSAM approach seems to rely very much on oversight bodies that unfortunately do not accommodate the youth. For social accountability to work the youth must be able to hold governments accountable, stemming from their own process led SAM approach. As such, action is required across the broad alliances that ensure that youth action is felt and is impactful.