What We Are Doing

How do we organise a Citizens’ Hearing? 5 Mar 2015

(Blog is written by Jasminka Milovanovic, the EVERY ONE Campaign Manager at Save the Children in Tanzania with the support of Catherine Mayne, Campaign Officer, Global Campaign team)

Jasminka is currently organising Citizens' Hearing events in Tanzania and took some time to tell us what it takes to plan one.

What are Citizens' Hearings?

Citizens' Hearings will bring together community and government leaders to listen to, and act on, the views of citizens on national priorities for women's, children's and newborn's health. Starting March 2015, Save the Children and key partners are hosting community Citizens' Hearings at district, regional and national level that will culminate in a global Hearing during the World Health Assembly in May. We are holding governments to account for their delivery on MDGs 4 and 5, with citizens and civil society taking a lead role and pushing for an accountable new Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health launching later this year.

What is happening in Tanzania?

We'll get citizens, children and health facility staff together and call the government to action. We are using pre-existing partnerships, including with the White Ribbon Alliance member organisations and the child rights governance work on Children's Councils, to get their hearings on track.

District hearings in the Tanga region are on 7 March which will lead to a big Regional Hearing on 14 March with the Regional Commissioner as the main political figure present. We are organising a White Ribbon Alliance Day event on 15 March, with the Minister of Finance as the guest of honour. This is going to be a huge opportunity for us to convey the key messages of our campaign and potentially get commitment from the national government.

We are also very excited to have secured a slot on a very popular Tanzanian TV show at the end of March which will act as a National Hearing, where viewers can dial in and question participants. Finally, we are looking to get a slot at a high-level reproductive, maternal and newborn health conference organised by East African Community in Uganda on 25 and 26 March where we will present our results of the hearing.

A lot is happening for us in Tanzania in March and we hope it all proves to be extremely influential in getting the required commitments from the government.

So how do we make it happen?

Our solid partnerships and associations with other civil society organisations form the crux of our planning process.

We are using a number of different channels to organise our Hearings. We have a strong network with the White Ribbon Alliance coalition which covers many different civil society and community-based organisations. Using this we have inspired many organisations to get involved with the Hearings as well. We have also utilised our close partnership with Evidence for Action and World Vision to get a lot of work done for the Hearings.

We are carefully planning preparatory meetings and consultative initiatives to ensure the Citizens' Hearings are of the highest standard. Save the Children has played a key role in organizing four meetings so far, each bringing in new perspective and organisations, such as the International Planned Parenthood Foundation.

Next weekend we are organising consultations with children in order to set outcomes and ensure that they are achieved. We have a very strong working association with the Children's Council, a part of Save the Children's Child Rights Governance program in Tanzania. I believe that it is critical to give children a voice so they can present their views and demand the change they want to see.

The team in Tanzania has pushed strongly for child participation, and for providing these kids with information so they have a chance to speak up and give their voice to key developmental issues such as maternal and newborn health. The kids at the consultative meetings will select representatives amongst their friends who will represent them at the big Citizens' Hearing on 14 March.

It's crucial to the team that citizens from different groups come up with their own district and regional maternal and newborn health priorities, and decide on the change they want to see. There are a number of relevant initiatives already on the government's agenda, so this is a prime opportunity to involve citizens and make sure they are being heard.

Another strategy we have used – we have engaged an excellent facilitator, with whom we have worked before, and who works well with both children and adults. He is the President of the Press Club, a journalist, a newborn health activist and an employee of Evidence for Action! He is Tanzanian, familiar with the communities and media networks in the country, and he knows how to steer the discussion and present concepts well. Apart from his role in the Citizens' Hearing on 14 March, he is also playing a key role at the big event on 15 March and is completely involved in the entire process to help gather clear outcomes. We hope that he uses his journalist connections to broadcast this content to community and national media.

The outcomes of the hearings will be gathered and shared in national and global processes ahead of the Global Citizens' Hearing at the World Health Assembly.