Every day, community members across Africa are working towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In recognition of this year’s MDG week, we will be posting a story each day about how communities are working together to achieve each of these goals, leading their own development from the grassroots.

The eighth and final Millennium Development Goal refers to the need to create a stronger partnership for development on a global scale, encompassing the international aid and financial systems. At Tostan, we believe that in this global partnership, the most important actors should be the final beneficiaries – the community members. Members of Community Management Committees (CMC) in Djibouti are showing how by working together, they can achieve better results, and in doing so, they are making their voices heard by actors on the global stage.

Democratically selected during Tostan’s holistic, nonformal Community Empowerment Program (CEP), each CMC is equipped with skills and knowledge that empower them to transform the daily lives of people in their community, and in their wider social network. The Djiboutian CMC members, however, realized that by working together, they would become stronger and would be able to have an even larger impact. As a result, 29 CMCs have formed four federations, ranging in size from five to 11 CMCs (grouping themselves according to their mother tongue) and including members representing their partners such as other non-governmental organisations, women’s associations, religious leaders, and elected officials. Together, they have worked to identify their own development priorities, created action plans to help their communities to achieve these goals, and begun the search for and mobilization of funds.

As well as overseeing development projects and managing community development funds granted to the majority of CMCs during their participation in the Tostan program, these networks have become a strong and coherent voice advocating for greater government intervention in areas such as health and good governance. Thanks to the networks’ advocacy work and the support that they earned within the Ministry of the Interior, the government has recently passed a law allowing for the decentralization of birth registration.

Allowing this basic bureaucratic procedure to be carried out across the country guarantees the right of many people living in the regions of Djibouti to a nationality, and simplifies the process of accessing education and healthcare later in life. The CMC networks are also pressing for the decentralization of vaccinations, advocating for government-run health services to visit rural areas, in order to avoid mothers having to travel long distances.

With the support of partners at a local, national, and international level, communities of Djibouti are making sure their voices are heard, and together, they are achieving concrete results in areas related to the other MDGs that have been discussed this week.  The community members taking part in our program are letting their governmental, and international partners know exactly what their needs are.

By Shona Macleod, Tostan