I’m often asked, “What does empowerment look like?” Not everyone can paint a vivid picture to this question. At OVP, we can.
Last week I shared the PRA* analysis of the village of Grima and the four key challenges we came up with. On this day, as we presented the challenges, the community members became very deeply involved.
Everyone was enthusiastically voting and aggressively debating each other about what should be the top priority. In the end, it went to a tiebreaker between “learning” and “sickness.” The crowd of about 130 in the Barray* asked to have five minutes to think about it. After some vigorous discussion, they unanimously agreed that “sickness” should win. The excitement was electric and smiling faces were everywhere you looked.
Here comes the interesting part: I turned to one of the local volunteers and said “Everyone seems happy!” and he said, “That’s because no NGO* has asked us what project we need before.” I was shocked, there have been six major NGOs that worked in this community. I asked him to confirm this with the community.
In a booming voice, he asked the crowd, “Has any NGO asked us to vote on what project we need here?” Everyone in chorus, “NO!” He asked again, “Are you sure?” “YES!” And for one more point of affirmation he asked, “Are you sure that the priority challenge in this community is ‘Stopping Sickness’?” “YES!!!”
Immediately, everyone in the Barray started singing and dancing. And I mean hard! Someone brought out shakers and a little drum, and we all danced for like ten minutes straight. Adults, kids, old ladies, (even the one white dude), we all ripped it up.
Seeing this enthusiasm was another reminder of how effective OVP’s community-led approach is. “Empowerment” is a word that we use a lot, and if you’re still wondering, “What does empowerment look like?” This is what it looks like: 100 people joyously dancing in celebration of the first time they voted for their own community development project.
– Chad McCordic, Community Projects Manager
*PRA = Participatory Rural Appraisal – a way to assess the needs and resources of a community prior to planning projects or activities
*Barray = community gathering space
*NGO = non-governmental organization. A non-profit, voluntary citizens’ group which is organized on a local, national or international level.