Leaving no stone unturned in the promotion of FOI, “From training of information officers to community sensitization”

After the training of District information officers on their roles and responsibilities in the promotion of access to information in Rwanda, ODESUDI is now embarking on sensitizing communities as a way of stimulating demand of access to information. On 04/08/2015 ODESUDI trained 2 cooperatives and 1 association in Kacyiru Sector of Gasabo District.

It is not only about sensitization of the communities and their interest and desire for access to information that makes this story unique, it is the intriguing story behind, the story of communities that have built their lives from scratch to a new beginning, communities full of hope irrespective of their social background, citizens determined to turn their lives around after being messed up by drugs and prostitution. It is this quality of resolve and sense of determination not to be held by their past, but rather to make impactful strides in the future which characterizes this group that motivated our team to equip them with skills on access to information rights in order to farther contribute to the transformation of their lives.

Who are these people in UBUZIMA JYA EJURU AND UBUZIMA BUSHYA) and YDPD cooperatives and associations? These are groups of individuals who have managed to organize themselves into cooperatives after spending part of their lives in IWAWA rehabilitation center struggling with drugs and other bad habits. Individuals who join IWAWA are smokers of drugs, prostitutes and alcohol addicts.

In 2009 these individuals left IWAWA and formed their own families, they farther organized themselves into cooperatives UBUZIMA JYA EJURU AND UBUZIMA BUSHYA) and YDPD associations. The purpose of taking these individuals to IWAWA rehabilitation center was to help them turn from their bad behaviors and to teach them TVET’S so as to be transformed into responsible citizens for their own benefit and the country at large.

After IWAWA they have divided themselves into two groups forming cooperatives which deal in Tailoring and the other Cooperative dealing in Carpentry. The cooperative of tailoring was formed by girls from IWAWA after receiving tailoring trainings where as the cooperative of carpentry was formed by boys now men from IWAWA after being given carpentry skills.

Ever since, these individuals have tremendously transformed their lives through cooperative activities. For instance they are no longer using drugs; they are now independent citizens able to take care of themselves and their families. They have opened up accounts in SACCO as a way to enhance their savings and generate investment capital.

While providing access to information training Mr. Fredrick Hendrick Karanganwa the Director of Programs at ODESUDI explained the importance of access to information to this group of people and to the general public. He informed them that access to information is a right to every Citizen irrespective of their social economic status. Mr. Fredrick informed members of cooperatives that they pay taxes and they have a right to know how their taxes are utilized. He said that access to information will help participants to the training to take part in government programs and in planning so as to become responsible citizens.

The Director informed cooperatives that access to information can help in transforming their lives by making it possible to access other social economic rights; he told them that assuming there is infrastructure like a road or a school that is planned in the District or public works. Having access to this information will enable to compete for these tenders or to engage in social protection public works if you qualify. Access to information is also critical in market research when one is making investment decisions. Access to information is important for you as citizens to participate in the budget making process and monitoring of its implementation. Access to information equips you with the tools to hold authorities or leadership of your cooperatives to account.

He informed the members of cooperatives that the right to access to information is reorganized by the constitution of Rwanda and Rwandan Law of 2013 and Ministerial Orders of January 2014. He said the law allows providing information in the language the requestor understands well and therefore public organs and relevant private bodies have a duty to translate information in three languages and this has budget implication. He also informed them that information to be disclosed has to be in public interest or where the public interest override the exemption raised. He highlighted the kind of information that cannot be disclosed like the information which can destabilize the national security.

Mr. Fredrick explained to the participants about the timeframe for releasing information: Information is to be given in a period not more than 3 days and if the information required is to be published by journalist it has to be given within 2 days where as the information requested is about saving life, it has to be disclosed within 24hrs/1day. He also talked about www.sobanukirwa.rw as website which was created by ODESUDI in partnership with Tumenye and it is accessed in three different official languages spoken in Rwanda which members of cooperatives can use to make information requests to information officers in public bodies and some private bodies.

During this training for cooperatives on access to information participants asked the following important questions which the team from ODESUDI answered.
• Can you give us an example of anyone whose life has been transformed by access to information by Uwiringiyimana Francois?
• How can someone without internet be facilitated and is there away one can contact you to help him in access information by Nkuriyehe Thomas?
• Tell us how access to information is linked to open democracy and sustainable development?
• How can someone have autonomy of his cooperative so that his rights are not violated Karwana Paul Pascal from Imbaraga cooperative?
The team from ODESUD explained to participants in general and to Mr. Uwiringiyimana Francois in particular; that access to information is a new phenomenon in Rwanda as the Law was adopted in 2013, but people have started claiming their ATI rights and they gave an example of Isaac who used www.sobanukirwa.rw https://sobanukirwa.rw/request/ikib... to claim his rights. http://odesudi.org/spip.php?article1

About the issue of access to internet team from ODESUDI informed participants that ODESUDI in partnership with Tumenye have established a toll free telephone line 4636 that every citizen can use to submit his access to information request. This is aimed at facilitating people living in rural areas and with no access to information.
The Director of programs informed members of cooperatives that access to information is the foundation of transparence and accountable governance which are the pillars of democracy, rule of Law and sustainable development. Hence, as responsible citizens they should be able to ask for information as means of enforcing accountable governance. He also informed Karwana Paul from Imbaraga cooperative that his question is a good demonstration of the importance of access to information; he informed him that he can contact @ODESUDI to help him in filing an access to information request to the relevant body in charge of issuing certificates for cooperatives.

The training started and ended with prayers and thanks to GOD to have allowed this opportunity, asking him to give courage and blessings to ODESUDI and members of the cooperatives to advance access to information to leverage their missions and rights.