Strategically using ICTs to amplify voices of silenced groups

Monday, November 19, 2012

Beer hall turned to flourishing offices

FOR close to five years, the Montgomery Recreational Centre in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe was illegally used as a beer hall. The local authority had closed it and for close to two years, it was abandoned. The Creative Centre for Communication and Development (CCCD) saw how the recreation centre was strategically positioned as an easily accessible meeting space for women and girls in Queens Park, Kingsdale and Woodville.
“We had been operating from home [Queens Park West] for close to two years. During this period we were working and learning with the community to understand the needs and concerns of women and girls in relation to advancing their communication rights,” says Gertrude Pswarayi, the Director for the CCCD.
Pswarayi says her organisation attended the 2011 Chief Executive Officers (CEO) Forum in Kenya that was funded by the AWDF. It is at the forum that she learned about the AWDF’s capacity building programme and the aim of the CEO Forum which is framed on providing a unique space for collective thinking and strategizing.
“We approached the AWDF with a proposal for organisational development because we felt that we were ready to scale up our work. We realized that we could only contribute to long term social change if our organisation had a solid base. We wanted to develop our strategy for the next three years, establish an office and strengthen staff capacity to deliver quality services to the women and girls that we serve,” explains Pswarayi.
CCCD received US$20, 000 from the AWDF as a small grant for organisational development. The organisation got permission from the residents’ association to use Montgomery Recreational Centre as their new home.
“When we were first shown the space we now call ‘home’ almost everything was in bad shape but we were confident that we could transform the place into beautiful offices where people could feel safe, comfortable and welcome,” says Pswarayi.
Pswarayi says her team immediately engaged six volunteers from the community. She says after a week of hard work, the place was restored. Within a few days, scores of marginalized and vulnerable women, girls and some few men visited the new offices and requested CCCD to work with them.
The former beer hall is now a thriving community communication centre. The funding from the AWDF has seen us purchasing two laptops, office desks and chairs. We also established a telephone line and we have internet connection. This means that we no longer have to travel to town daily to access the internet. Our work has been made much easier as people feel free to approach us at our new offices as compared to working from home. The equipment and improved communication system is contributing enormously to improved communication with our stakeholders who use telephone, skype, emails and social media. We are also able to research and use the internet for mobilizing additional resources for our programmes.
“There is so much good that has come as a result of the grant that we received from the AWDF. For some it may appear as a small grant but to us every dollar invested in our work counts. We know this is true because we are already beginning to yield positive results,” says Pswarayi.