A very successful Community Based Organization (CBO) with long-standing repute, Youth Development Movement (YDM) and the Freetown East Slum Dweller Association (FESDA) recently showcased their achievements and challenges of a five-year project implementation in eight (8) slum communities in east end Freetown at the Comforti Hall, Calaba Town.
The Programme attracted many dignitaries including Government representatives, representatives of the Freetown City Council (FCC), community stakeholders, beneficiaries, the media and well-wishers.
In his opening remarks, the Director of YDM, David A. Yambasu, who chaired the occasion, said the purpose of the programme was to showcase to representatives of the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) and the FCC the work of YDM and FESDA for them to see what they have done in the past five years.
According to David Yambasu, the five-year project implemented between 2013 and 2018 was sponsored by their overseas partners – Transform Africa and Comic Relief which was implemented by YDM and CBOs in eight slum communities in east end Freetown.
The Director highlighted the achievements made within the aforesaid period despite he said the Ebola outbreak hindered the implementation work for over a year.
On livelihood, Mr. Yambasu disclosed that a total of 2,483 slum dwellers received small loans out of the planned 6-year target of 4,000 and about 1,775 (71.4%) improved their income and standard of living at the end of the project, adding that 765 out of a target of 878 unemployed youths successfully completed job skills training and 546 (72%) were in self or paid employment within six months of their graduation.
He further disclosed that after YDM raised awareness amongst slum dwellers on land rights and obligations, about 525 of them in 8 slum communities were able to register and received title deeds for their plots of land they occupy in those slum communities.
The Chairman also disclosed that through small grants awarded to each of the 8 slum communities, they succeeded in improving their access to safe drinking water beyond planned targets, thereby increasing the time that girls/women, who fetch water for their families, spend on their education. He said the number of new safe water users rose to 18,676 in 5 years and that the number exceeded the 5-year project target of 10,000 by 8, 676 persons, adding that 15% of slum community people adopted best hygiene practice at the end of the project, exceeding the planned 5-year target of 7.4%.
On YDM and CBO capacity, Director Yambasu said: “YDM was able to have a formidable MEL Unit. Resulting from technical training in governance, MEL financial management/narrative reporting and mentorship from YDM, 8 CBOs in slum communities improved their status by becoming registered and recognized organizations with bank accounts and structures, and were put in position to lead development efforts in their slums.”
He added that FESDA was formed bringing together CBOs in the east end slums to speak with one voice about slum issues, noting that the effort has resulted in the development of an Action Plan that can be implemented if support for it is provided.
On the challenges slum communities faced during the project implementation, Mr. Yambasu said: “The increasing number of slum dwellers presents a serious challenge to the proper use of established project infrastructure like safe water taps, dams, water wells and road/steps in slum communities, Education and health services for especially children in the slum is inadequate.”
The Director continued: “Collaboration among slum communities for effective and sustainable advocacy is low. The passive/traditional attitude of some slum dwellers towards women education and their participation in decision-making the rise in inflation and cost of living created difficulties for loan beneficiaries to make meaningful profit to improve on their income and standard of living. Capacity of CBOs is low to face development challenges in the slums of east of Freetown.”
In his statement, the Deputy Minister of Youth Affairs, Lusine Kallon asserted that most local organizations are not transparent and accountable. He however took pride in YDM for being a very transparent and accountable organization with physical evidence.
The Deputy Minister also commended YDM for changing the narrative of Sierra Leonean youths and showcased one of its former students, Adama E. Kamara, who graduated as Motor Mechanic, before the jam-packed audience.
He confidently assured YDM that his door was always open to them to find the way forward with regards youth issues aimed at national development.
A representative from the Ministry of Higher and Technical Education, Augustine Allieu emphasized the importance of human capital development as being center of the New Direction administration, adding that Technical Vocational Institutes have been operationalized in ten districts, while the remaining six districts would soon have their own established.
He disclosed that the Ministry has worked out a technical vocational training policy as a roadmap, noting that people who go to technical vocational institutes are often considered as dropouts but said they were trying to change that perception.
Augustine Allieu also urged YDM to dialogue with the Ministry with regards the way forward, while he also praised the organization for a job well done.
In their way forward statements, representative of the Mayor of FCC, Madam Abioseh Wilson, Councilor Mary Kamara aka Mary Grassroots of Ward 402 and beneficiaries of FESDA unanimously showered praises on YDM for its exemplary work in the slum communities and for also capacitating the youths with skills training.
The also highlighted many of the challenges during the implementation of the 5-year project,