Wednesday, November 09, 2005

INTERNATIONAL SERVICE: Redux - Setting Language Barriers Aside

BYesterday, I had to bring my article to a close without finishing what I had to say about International Services. And the reason for taking so much time with this subject it so point out that language need not be a barrier when providing assistance to communities in developing nations.

I left off after listing IS's partners in Mali. But there is a lot more to say about what IS is doing in Mali

For four years IS has worked with groups in Mali involved in supporting vulnerable children and young people who leave home to work in cities. As a result of this commitment, Jeunesse et Développement (J&D: Youth and Development en anglais) asked International Service to help establish a center for disadvantaged young people that would enable them to develop vocational skills and engage in social and educational activities.

Jeunesse et Développement is an organization that was founded in 1993, J&D as a Malian NGO to help enable young people to develop their potential in the areas of income generation, health education, and citizenship.

In what has been termed "a groundbreaking venture," J&D organised an international consultation in November 2000 to bring together street children from four West African countries and those working with them. Discussion and debate were held for nine days, after which, the young people spoke for themselves and expressed their hopes and needs for the future.

Out of this came the "Bamako Declaration" that guides the work of J&D. This Declaration calls for a better understanding of the needs of children to be heard - not only within families, but within local and national governments as well.

At the Centre established by IS and J&D there will be provided employment training classes in literacy and math as well as business management classes. Counselling and advice on services available to young people will be available at the Centre as well; along with sports and games, leisure and cultural activities and information about reproductive health.

Maximizing the potential of the Centre, the project will be conducted in co-operation with other organizations and the young people themselves will play a key role in the management.

The other organizations working on the project will come from the Bamako area and include organizations such as schools, health clinics and savings banks to gain access to basic services for young people. In addition, links will be established with local trades people who are willing to offer training opportunities. It is intended that eventually employment opportunities will also be created by the project.
There is much more to this project than I have written here, and you can learn about it at the International Services web site.


Mali is not the only country in Francophone Africa in which International service has been active. IS has been in Burkina Faso since 1978, working mainly in the geo-graphical areas that receive only limited attention from other international development agencies. The majority of their local partners are NGOs, that work with local communities in both rural and urban areas and focus on issues such as public awareness, education/training and natural resource management, as well as small business management and access to other services such as credit and savings.

In Burkina Faso, IS focuses on the major themes of sustainable livelihoods and organisational development. The main role of the IS development workers there is to support the local organizations with whom they partner. That support can take the form of technical training, or advice on institutional and organisational capacity building. This is done "to help the partners become more effective and efficient in the development work they do, and to sustain their interaction with their target groups into the future."

The IS Field Office in Burkina Faso is located in Ouagadougou. And some of their Burkinabe partners are:

Action on Disability in Development (ADD)
Focus: to encourage and support disabled peoples' groups and organisations to help their individual members become more independent and self sufficient, and enable them to participate more in the development of their country.

Association Feminine pour le Development (AFD/Buayaba)
Focus: to promote sustainable development that recognises women in society and the role they play.

Action Micro Barrages (AMB)
Focus: the construction of small dams, and it also runs credit and savings schemes for the benefit of local people in the area.

Association d'Appui et de Promotion Rural du Gulmu (APRG)
Focus: supporting and promoting rural development, to provide savings and credit, promote environmental protection, support local income generating activities, and facilitate local group development.

Association pour la Recherche et la Formation en Agro-écologie (ARFA)
Focus: the promotion of sustainable agriculture and environmental protection and it has helped set up credit funds to enable local people develop their income generating activities.

Association de Soutien à l'Auto-Promotion (ASAP)
Focus: to assist and support the local population in their efforts to develop self help initiatives through activities such as training in agricultural, environmental and healthcare issues.

Centre National de Semences Forestières (CNSF)
Focus: carries out research on local and exotic tree species, sells tree seeds and seedlings, and provides training to local people interested in the propagation, management and use of trees.

Action des femmes pour le developpement (Micro-start)
Focus: to promote women's socio-economic conditions by encouraging efficient local credit schemes for women, providing appropriate technical, material and financial support for community based activities, helping communities take control of their own initiatives and stimulate new initiatives for employment for women, and improving levels of literacy amongst women.

Association Pengdwendé
Focus: awareness raising, training, organisation, support to income generating and environmental protection activities, as well as the promotion of the rights of young girls and women.

Radio Salankoloto
Focus: a small community radio station in the capital that runs programmes which among other things contributes to local awareness raising on important issues such as HIV/AIDS.

Reseau de Communication, d'Information et de Formation des Femmes dans les Organismes Non Gouvernementals au Burkina Faso (RECIF/ONG-BF)
Focus: a network organisation in the capital concerned with the well being and status of women and whose activities include research, awareness raising, provision of relevant information, training and general support to its member organisations.

Reseau National de Lutte Anti-Corruption (REN-LAC)
Focus: to contribute to the development of an environment of morality and transparency in the management of daily affairs in the capital and other towns and cities.

Association Tin Tua (ATT)
Focus: three main areas: Basic Education, Food Security and Capacity Building. Main activities include adult literacy training and children's primary education, agricultural development with e.g. new techniques and cereal stores, and community development with capacity building and income generating activities.

IS also has a Training Centre for People with Disabilities in Burkina Faso. In Burkina Faso, IS has worked closely with a network of agencies concerned with the rights and opportunities of people, however its partner FEBAH (Federation of Burkinabé Associations for the Promotion of Disabled People) "has developed a plan to establish a Training Centre to extend appropriate vocational training to many more of Burkina's disabled people."

International Service's web site says that FEBAH is an "umbrella organisation linking about 250 smaller groups of people with disabilities." IS says, "FEBAH's aims are extensive and visionary as well as practical," and include:

- Enabling people with disabilities to make their voices heard and to actively participate in the economic, social and cultural life of the country.

- Representing disabled peoples' organisations in national and regional decision

- Making forums to ensure government and regional policies benefit everyone.

- Supporting people with disabilities with training and social support to ensure full integration into society.

The FEBAH Training Centre will provide training in appropriate skills as well as the opportunity for people to meet and mix, build up confidence and share experiences.

The people most invested in its success - the disabled people themselves - will operate the FEBAH Training Centre.

In addition to the training an awareness programme is planned to help people to understand the causes of disabilities. Because some disabilities are preventable through better health awareness this programme can help towards preventing individuals falling victim to a disability. Also, there is a great deal of misunderstanding and prejudice about the causes of disabilities, and this programme can address these problems.

Both skills training and literacy work will form the core of the Centre's programme. Skills training will include: metalwork (which encompasses bicycle and plough repair), production of kitchen and farming equipment; arts and crafts skills (which include the production of chairs, shoes and other leather items, tables and clothing). The literacy classes will be held as the Centre and will focus on basic literacy skills.

I apologize for the length of this article, but I did not want to leave out any important parts, and I did not want to carry it over to a third day.

There are two things that I would like for the reader to come away with after reading this article, and that is:

First - There are many NGOs in Francophone Africa with whom NGOs based in English speaking countries can partner. The "myth" often repeated among English speakers that there are not many NGOs in the Francophone African nations is just that - "a myth." The articles over the last two days have listed quite a few organizations in Mali and Burkina Faso alone.

Second - It is not impossible for NGOs based in English speaking countries to partner with NGOs in Francophone African nations. International Services has proven that it can be done quite efficiently. We should not let language be a barrier to providing assistance to those who need it. And if anyone would like to know how it is done, I am very sure that the people at International Services would be happy to tell you how.

So, No Excuses, Give them a buzz. International Service.

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