SEND Sierra Leone has evolved through three phases, each generating innovative management and programming strategies that enabled the organization to achieve 10 significant development results. The strategies, tools and partnerships used to accomplish these results will guide SEND Sierra Leone in implementing the five Strategic Directions of the organisation. These impacts are presented below.
SEND WEST Africa started operating in Sierra Leone in 2004 in response to a World Bank and GOSL short- term consultancy assignment to monitor micro-projects addressing HIV/AIDs issues, working with a small team of local consultants. SEND also provided support to the Network Movement for Justice and Development to replicate SEND Ghana’s use of Participatory Monitoring and evaluation to promote accountability and transparency in the implementation of the Sierra Leone Poverty Reduction Strategy. These consultancy assignments exposed SEND to opportunities for further working in Sierra Leone.
From 2008 to 2015, SEND was headquartered in Kailahun, implementing projects in 14 chiefdoms. Kailahun District was selected because it was where the civil war of the 1990s started and the last district where the rebels were disarmed. Over 80 percent of the estimated 420,000 population were living below the poverty level in 2004, making Kailahun the poorest district in the country. The Kailahun Livelihood Security Promotion Programme was modeled on a similar program of SEND Ghana and a staff person from this project was transferred to Sierra Leone to manage it.
In 2009, to kick start livelihood development activities, community leaders from the three target chiefdoms (Luawa, Upper Bambara and Kissi Tongi), including two women councillors, undertook a learning visit to the sister project in Ghana, exposing them to the experiences of farmers, youth and women. Members of the team returned from Ghana inspired and started leading the project in Sierra Leone. By 2010, the project was supporting communities to increase livelihood development activities through the use of micro finance and technical training. Small scale entrepreneurs including women, teachers and other income earners were educated and mobilized to establish Community Credit Unions in three chiefdoms, training beneficiaries in the Three Gender Acts and modern family planning methods. In addition, over 1,000 rice farmers were mobilized into cooperatives and each purchased shares in the credit unions in their chiefdom and a revolving rice seed bank was successfully implemented, allowing more than 500 farmers to access high yielding rice varieties. Under the Women’s Economic Empowerment Micro Project, technical and group management training skills were provided to hundreds of women farmers who were members of three Agricultural Business Centres. By the end of 2015, the three community-based credit unions had 1,576 members, accumulated savings of US$ 292,110, and over US$ 166,290 was given out as loans.
In 2009, SEND established a project to promote women in the political administration of the district – Kailahun Women in Governance - funded by DFID and Christian Aid. The project helped form the Kailahun Women in Governance Network (KWIGN) in which one hundred grassroots women’s groups from 14 chiefdoms were mobilized to increase women’s participation in political decision making in the District Council. They lobbied for the implementation of the 30 percent quota for women into leadership positions. The Women on the Move radio program was also established in partnership with Radio MOA and BBC Trust to host on-air discussions about women’s right to political participation. The project also instituted the Women’s Leadership Award to showcase women’s diverse contributions to the development of their communities. Since 2010, this award has become the highlight of the celebration of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. These project activities galvanized the KWIGN to fight for increased election of women in the 2012 general election. The numbers of women councillors in Kailahun rose from 4 in 2008 to 12 out of 29 in 2012. The district had the highest number of elected women in political positions in the country.
The Strengthening Health Sector Governance project was funded by the EU7 and Christian Aid to improve maternal and under-five mortality by promoting accountability and transparency in the implementation of the Free Health Program (FHCP), and to enhance water, sanitation and power supply at the two main hospitals in Kailahun District. In partnership with the District Budget Oversight Committee, 14 Chiefdom Monitoring Teams (CMTs) were established which lead the policy education on the FHCP in their chiefdoms. A local drama group was used by the CMT to popularize the FHCP in the communities and Radio MOA held phone-in programmes to mobilize the citizenry to participate in the monitoring and evaluation activities. The CMTs also lead monitoring exercises to highlight shortages of drugs, poor record keeping and weak coordination in the implementation of the FHCP. In 2014, the impact of the project was summed up by an ndependent international health researcher:
“SEND’s PM&E intervention … led to much more significant changes; clinics opened on time, patients were treated courteously, charts were hung up, benches and shades were placed in waiting areas, and bathroom facilities and general cleanliness improved too. … the large majority did not mention charges for free care as a problem, suggesting that this methodology had been the most successful at reducing illegal charges for free care”
Led by SEND staff, the KWIGN, farmers’ co-operatives, RCWA and Radio MOA ensured that remote communities adopted Ebola prevention measures, which helped make Kailahun District the first to be declared Ebola-free. The capacity of 32 villages bordering Liberia and Guinea was built to adopt Ebola prevention practices, strengthening the Chiefdom Ebola Task Force and forming Ebola Watch Committees, comprising religious, traditional and youth leaders which disseminated key messages to the local population. SEND also helped provide economic and social relief to the afflicted communities and survivors of Ebola, working with farmers’ co-operatives to establish a revolving rice seed scheme and distributing educational materials, such as exercise books and back- packs to students. Implementing these activities enabled the SEND team to develop competencies in planning and implementing preventive health education.
During this phase, SEND expanded to Kono and Kenema Districts, as well as in Western Region. Kenema became SEND’s head office supported by three satellite offices in Kailahun, Kono and Freetown and the number of staff grew from less than 40 at the end of 2015 to 67 in 2018, with women accounting for 30 percent. The organization was transformed in 2014 from a Programme of SEND West Africa into a national NGO headed by a Country Director, supervised by a National Executive Committee.
As illustrated by Figure 5, the Mama Dei Come micro finance project which caters to the members of the Rural Commercial Women Association has since 2010 benefited over 10,013 women. Petty trading in food items (vegetables, grains, nuts, rice and oil) is the main business activity of the women. Over the years, approximately US$ 679, 586 has been disbursed as loans to the women beneficiaries. Many are investing their money to grow from petty traders to owners of medium-sized enterprises, capable of hiring other members of the community.
Since 2016, supported by its partners, WHH, UNDP and Christian Aid, SEND’s health programming has expanded by implementing projects in Kenema and Kono districts, constructing/rehabilitating health centres, and water and sanitation facilities, and carrying out preventive health education focusing on three key infectious diseases that have plagued Sierra Leone: Ebola, Lassa Fever and cholera. SEND’s Gender Model Family (GMF) model is the framework for executing the preventive health education component. Fifty-one GMFs established under the original livelihood security programme have grown to over 3,000 in Kailahun and Kenema districts. The GMFs are the entry points for the different behavioral change activities promoted by the programme, which include educating and supporting husband and wife to agree to live as equal partners, promoting nutrition-sensitive agriculture, and promoting improved sanitation practices. A manual developed under the project is being used by staff to establish over 300 nutrition multipliers in the communities who implement preventive health educational activities.
Programming activities to empower women in governance were extended to Kono and Kenema districts to strengthen women’s participation in the 2018 General Election. The Power to Women Project operates in three districts in which over 11,222 men and women including 375 persons with disability were mobilized through training on leadership, gender-based violence, voter education and the Three Gender Acts. Women groups in Kono and Kenema formed Women in Governance Networks which prepared the Eastern Women’s Manifesto for 2018. Notable achievements in 2018 were that 26 women were elected as district councillors and four as Members of Parliament in the three districts, that Kenema increased the number of women councillors from 8 in 2012 to 11 in 2018 and that Kailahun elected its first independent woman Member of Parliament.
Supported by Christian Aid and Amplified Change, the Kailahun District Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Eradication in School Project became operational in 52 schools and was implemented in partnership with 12 women councillors elected in 2012 to promote GBV-free schools. Activities include establishing girls’ clubs in each school to promote anti-GBV education and GBV monitoring teams to collect, verify and document evidence on instances of GBV in the schools. GBV monitoring reports are presented to the Ward Development Committees’ GBV Accountability Forum, ensuring that action is taken against perpetrators.
Thirty WDCs and 40 community-based development groups in 15 chiefdoms using SEND’s PM&E are successfully claiming development support from the Kailahun, Kenema, Kono and Freetown councils. This project is funded by DFID and implemented by a national consortium led by Christian Aid. SABI’s noticeable achievements include elders in one ward enforcing bye-laws and promoting community sensitization on the importance of antenatal care, which has increased the number of women using such services. In addition, SEND has operationalized different complaint and response mechanisms to increase accountability for the delivery of social services. For example, at some health facilities and schools, complaint boxes have been installed and citizens are encouraged to drop in notes with their concerns. These are reviewed by the SABI team and passed on to the appropriate service providers for redressing.
The Kailahun Changing Lives Centre was established in 2017 and is being sponsored by TerraTech Kindehilfswerk Global Care Germany to address the educational and psychological needs of 40 vulnerable children, the majority of whom were Ebola orphans. Key services provided include paying school fees and providing school bags and books, weekly tutorials by volunteer teachers, counselling services, sports and drama programmes. SEND staff in Ghana and Sierra Leone, helped by Friends of SEND in Canada, have also adopted five Ebola orphan girls to finance their education. SEND staff volunteered to give a percentage of their salaries to cover accommodation, school fees, health bills, and clothing for the orphans. These 10 results are only highlights of many of SEND’s achievements in Sierra Leone that shape the Strategic Directions for this Strategic Plan. These experiences, along with the technical skills and partnership developed with donors and beneficiary groups, will be important assets in implementing the plan.