In September 2017, African Monitor (AM) launched the Citizens’ Report! (CR), a programme designed to monitor the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa through citizen generated data. The Citizens’ Report will be facilitated in ten African countries by youth champions. This programme leverages citizens’ voices through reliable data to strengthen national and regional review processes of the SDGs; and to facilitate policy change. The programme also promotes citizen engagement, particularly focusing on youth and women, to ensure that SDG implementation is inclusive and leaves no one behind.
In a bid to initiate and enhance the monitoring and review of the SDGs through citizen-generated data, AM held a five-day workshop from 19-24 February 2018 in Johannesburg. The enlightening workshop was attended by 33 young people from ten countries who are eager to contribute to the implementation of the SDGs.
The aim of the workshop was to train young people to conduct research, engage community members and produce citizen generated data and key policy asks in order to achieve the programme objectives.
In her opening, African Monitor Director, Mrs Namhla Mniki-Mangaliso, talked briefly about the background of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), stating that the MDGs were only eight and mainly focused on social development.
She highlighted that in 2015, the MDGs gave way to the SDGs which were adopted under the principle of socio-economic development and leaving no one behind, and that they should be treated holistically.
She further talked to the Youth Champions about leadership, urging the young people to take charge, redefine and shape civil society in their communities. She continued to encourage them to not be afraid to do the unusual and be very passionate about what they do.
“Can the SDGS and their vision for a better world be achieved?” asked Mrs Mniki-Mangaliso.
She explained that citizens’ exclusion in the implementation of the SDGs; weak review and delivery; and poor accountability systems between citizens and government were the reasons that gave birth to the Citizens’ Report.
“The solution to the above-mentioned problems is building youth capacity to monitor the SDGs,” she said.
In one of the sessions, the youth champions were trained on issues around social research, the role of the researcher as well as the principles of social research. With Dr Tara Polzer-Ngwato as one of the speakers, she urged the youth that they should be able to disprove and prove their hypothesis.
“Research should not be filtered,” she said.
She also told the Youth Champions that their job was not to save people in the field, but to collect data. “Our aim is to collect data and we shouldn’t make any promises to people,” said Dr Polzer-Ngwato.
As the Youth Champions were being trained, they were also encouraged to maintain confidentiality and to have consent forms at all times as they go out to do field work.