Meet the Heroes

The people here are local aid heroes. They work on the ground to increase access to health and education. To improve agricultural practices. To empower women and sow the seeds of peace and security.
The pictures and words only tell one half of the story. Every hero needs a sidekick. The EU and other international donors are those sidekicks. International aid supports the heroes bringing about change and helping their countries become self-reliant. Now is not the time to abandon aid commitments. It is time to move forward together to create safe, sustainable communities for all.

© Keith Lane / Oxfam
Health Champion

Amadou Kanouté

Founder of the Pan-African Institute for Consumer Citizenship and Development (CICODEV), Senegal
"Without health, forget about development. Without health, forget about people going to work. Without health, forget about women doing the kinds of jobs that they do, either in the office or at home."

- Amadou Kanouté
Health is central to everything, says Amadou. A veteran of the international aid field, the 63-year-old now spends his days working tirelessly to achieve healthcare for everyone in Senegal. In 2013, the Senegalese government launched a universal health coverage programme, but poverty, high illiteracy rates and historic mistrust of politicians stymied people’s enthusiasm for the project.

Supported by international donors, Amadou has succeeded in turning back the tide of negativity. After listening to grassroots discussions, he shares local people’s views and potential policy solutions with government officials to further understanding between people and politicians. The ultimate aim is that locals and national leaders can find solutions to problems, such as healthcare, without outside aid. And that will take political will. Creating lasting self-reliance in countries like Senegal will only be achieved if the Amadous of this world are allowed to work their magic.

The government’s programme has the potential to increase access to healthcare, save lives and increase prosperity, but initially struggled to get off the ground. With international support, Amadou helped accelerate its implementation. Three years ago, only 20% of the Senegalese population were signed up to the programme. Today, the participation rate is up to nearly 50%. This will create significant benefits for individuals and Senegal as a whole.

So what’s the secret? Amadou’s success relies on organising community meetings to discuss the healthcare reforms and getting important groups, such as women, on board. After listening to people's ideas and frustrations, Amadou shares them with government officials, suggests policy options to address problems, and then carries out surveys to see how changes are viewed and whether politicians are keeping their promises.

But this could not happen without international support. With sustained targeted aid and the EU's promise to spend 20% of its development budget on health and education, this positive trend should continue.

However, any downturn in funding will significantly impact the work of local heroes like Amadou to create such connections, otherwise known as citizen-state compacts. “What motivates me more than anything else is getting to hear the government…making decisions on some of the things that we have highlighted through our work,” concludes Amadou. His approach requires time and patience, but the results are priceless.

© Quim Vives / Oxfam
People’s Parliamentarian

Frances Avakit Adong

Activist and leader of Oseera Citizens Parliament, Uganda
"Educating a woman is educating a community."

- Frances Adong
Frances Adong's life as a woman in poverty in Uganda became even harder when she lost her husband to HIV/AIDS. Then she was left without a job after the orphanage where she worked closed down. But instead of giving up, Frances rose to the challenge. She turned her home into a small eatery, earning enough to send her four children to school. She also led an education campaign about HIV/AIDS. But the more she learnt about the problems in her village, the more she wanted to help. Attending training funded by international donors gave her the skills to do just that, changing her life and that of her community.

Frances is now chair of her local Citizens Parliament, a social entrepreneur and a recognised change-maker. Thanks to her work, her village now has a school and improved healthcare. Donor support has been vital in her story, and EU aid to empower women like Frances can transform more lives and more communities for the better.

The turning point in 51-year-old Frances’ life was being offered a place on a training about governance and financial justice aimed at giving participants the tools to assert their rights with elected officials. This gave her the confidence to start tackling the problems that she and her neighbours had identified in their village and to “train other people and create awareness among them”.

With the skills she learned from her training, Frances mobilised her community and engage with the government on a wide variety of issues including education, healthcare and agriculture. When she started out 10 years ago, HIV/AIDS was devastating families in her village, Ossera had no school, the nearest health centre was more that an hour’s drive away and there was no emergency transportation, leaving people without much needed care.

Frances’ success shows that when donors support programmes that empower people and local organisations, they can produce results that far outweigh and sustain the initial aid investment. “Such trainings are important because they strengthen the capacity of communities to seek change,” explains Frances. “I was able to set up community organisations, like the Citizens Parliament, that help people express their needs to the government and ensure service delivery.”

For such schemes to empower more women and benefit more communities, it is essential that development aid continues to reach people like Frances and does not disappear into areas that don't directly focus on eradicating poverty and fighting inequality.

Frances is living proof that even a small drop of direct aid can create serious positive ripples: she has helped set up four more Citizens Parliaments, in addition to the one in her village, and is now looking forward to influencing the sub-county, district and national government to help improve access to schools, health facilities and drinking water. As Frances says: “Educating a woman is educating a community.”

© Keith Lane / Oxfam
Rural Visionary

Ndiobo mballo

Founder and director of the development organisation 7a, Senegal
“[Local people] can play a major role in their own development [as they come up with solutions that no outsider could foresee]”.

- Ndiobo Mballo
For half a century, Ndiobo Mballo has dedicated his life to improving the well-being of rural communities in Senegal. Via his organisation 7a and with backing from international donors, Ndiobo helps local people to improve agricultural practices, access education and increase security. He believes that the secret of his success is twofold: both empowering women and listening to local leaders, allowing them to direct the discussions. Food security and sustainable agriculture are among the EU’s key priorities for development cooperation. It is vital that pledges to empower smallholders, in particular women, are honoured to achieve socially, economically and environmentally sustainable development.

Ndiobo Mballo believes he is about 70. Over the years, he has contributed significantly to improving the well-being of many rural communities. He has achieved this through a plethora of projects based on his training as an agricultural engineer and his years of working with local people. Ndiobo has cooperated with international aid organisations for decades, and he builds the necessary links to rural communities aid is meant to support. He says that his best teachers are people on the ground, who “can play a major role in their own development” as they come up with solutions that no outsider could foresee.

One of his most recent successes is in the village of Saré Sambel on the border of Senegal and Guinea-Bissau. Ndiobo put into action his usual strategy of observing, asking questions and listening before working out a plan. When one of the villagers asked if he could help improve the general standard of living there, Ndiobo immediately put into action his usual strategy of observing, asking questions and listening before working out a plan. Together with the women of the village, he drew up a three-part strategy for Saré Sambel, which included a literacy centre, an enlarged community garden and creating physical and psychological security.

Ndiobo solved the security issue partly by arranging meetings between communities on either side of the border. But it was agriculture, and the improved community garden, which cemented the peace. Ndiobo invited women from Guinea-Bissau to grow vegetables in the Saré Sambel garden and take advantage of the new solar powered well that had been installed as part of its upgrade. This master plan brought together the women growers and their leaders and meant that a sustainable solution for food security had contributed to lasting peace.

Ndiobo’s achievements underline the importance of support for smallholders, many of whom are women, and of ensuring that funding aimed at supporting them is responsive to their actual needs. In this way, more stories like Ndiobo's will become reality, with an increasing number of communities ready and able to take change of their own development.

Learn more about how this work contributes to Oxfam’s vision of a world without extreme poverty.

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