Empowerment Workshop held for island communities in Tuvalu

05 Jul 2010

A recent workshop organized in the island of Vaitupu and Nui, in Tuvalu looked at how representatives from the different island councils and communities could better plan and budget for development funds. Conducted by the Department of Rural Development /Ministry of Home Affairs and Rural Development under the Strengthening Local Governance Programme, the workshop that took place in May involved men, women and youth.

Sasave Alapati, who is part of the women’s group Matapulapula said she learnt a lot from the workshop especially on her understanding of the Falekaupule Act and on good governance.

“The workshop was very useful and important but it would have been nicer if workshops like this can be held all the time especially in the outer islands. It would also have been nicer if the workshop was spread out over a week as two days was too short,” she said.

The training was a joint initiative between the Government of Tuvalu and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with major funding from the Government of New Zealand through its NZ International Agency for Aid and Development (NZAID). Through this initiative women and youth in Tuvalu are now being involved in the decision making process that will see to how development activities are implemented in their community.

Teoni, a representative from the Vaipuna Primary School said the most important thing she learnt was “the involvement of women and youth in the decision making of the island in its developments and whatever activity that needs to be done for the island.”

“We really need to involve women and youth so that they are able to voice out their opinions and thoughts,” she added.

The Tuvalu Government, since the inception of the Te Kakeega o Tuvalu (TK II) or the national development strategy has highlighted the need for special focus on outer islands other than the capital Funafuti which include, Nanumea, Nanumaga, Nui, Niulakita, Niutao, Nukufetau, Nukulaelae and Vaitupu.

The Government also recognizing the geographical and resource challenges have given greater autonomy to the outer island communities to plan for their needs and aspirations with the formulation of the Falekaupule Act 1997 after wide consultations supported by UNDP. This Act allows local Councils or Kaupule’s within the mandate of the Falekaupule or the traditional decision making body on each island to design and implement their development programmes.

“The development planning and budgeting processes under this Act, requires the participation of all groups of community, especially women and youth,” Mr Lopati Samasoni, Director of the Department of Rural Development said.

“This is where UNDP has come in to assist the Ministry of (MHARD) which is responsible for rural development in working with the Councils and the communities to help them better understand the significant roles they play in planning and deciding on how to spend their money for the development of their islands,” he added.

Similar training will be held in all outer islands except Niulakita which does not a have separate Kaupule and comes under Nukulaelae. Currently the project team is visiting the Northern Islands of Nanumea, Nanumaga and Niuatao and is conducting similar training to what was conducted in Vaitupu and Nui.

Nanu, a participant at the workshop said he was able to learn how to use a computer.

“Now I have a greater understanding compared to previous years or the past on how to use the different kinds of programmes that were taught. It will definitely make our work more easier especially in using the excel programme. It is a new programme to me,” he said.

Support to Local Governance Project

There are three areas to which UNDP has been working consistently with Kaupule officials to effectively communicate to the community their roles in contributing to development. First is by training the communities, including men, women and youth on how to plan development priorities and budget for it, as set out in the Falekaupule Act. Second has been through the setting up of island profiles which include all development data related to the respective islands, which have assisted Kaupule’s in the formulation of their local plans and thirdly to train and improve the knowledge of Kaupule staff by providing assistance on such matters such as computer programmes like Microsoft Excel for planning and drawing up budgets.

The SLG project is important for the people of Tuvalu, as it is an opportunity to learn planning and budgeting processes which have now become part of the community way of life.

“In the long run the project will assist Tuvalu in maintaining the required level of skills at the community and the local government level in the planning and budgeting and linkages to the national budget and the National Development Plans such as the Kakeega II,” said the UNDP Governance Associate, Navin Bhan.
The project is also aiming to build capacity in the Department of Rural Development.

“This is done through the mentoring of two SLG project staffs; the Young Professionals who will later be absorbed into the DRD staffs establishment when the project ends, thus keeping and maintain the skills taught and covered under SLG Project,” Mr Bhan said.