By Lasu Andrew – Ass. Dev’t Programs Manager
The many years of war have impacted the lives of communities in South Sudan in a very huge and significant manner. All members of the community are affected by the conflict; women most, then young people, and other vulnerable groups are children, the elderly, and the disabled. The conflict has caused a devastating effect on the well-being of communities, destroying communities and families, and disrupting the development of social and economic fabric. Communities in Yei River County of Central Equatoria State are among the most conflict-affected Populations. But today as the situation gets relatively calm, the communities are taking an opportunity to rebuild their families, connect and take collective action towards community development by coming together in what is known as RABITA.
What is Rabita?
Rabita is an Arabic phrase meaning “coming together”. The aim is to address local community issues and get simple local solutions. The Rabita is a locally initiated approach by communities for communities to address community issues, starting from the family or household level as one of the slogans in the Mijikita Community suggest “Na Abinu Biyut Na” which translates to “Let’s Build our homes/families”. Rabita focus is on the economic and social development aspect of the community and family lives. Rabita is a community together, a way of connecting one to another, heart to heart, and placing a hand on hand. A well locally designed and community-driven model of communities working together to better their futures and create the desired changes in families and communities.
Community Economic Development (CED) in the Rabita
In Rabita, communities come together and map out the most pressing concerns and draw simple solutions or choose actions to boast their economy at the family level and improve the quality of life for community members. Rabita embodies principles of what is known as Community Economic Development or local economic development (LED). CED/LED is defined as a community-driven process where communities identify and initiate their own solutions to economic, social, and environmental issues to build healthy, economically viable communities. The principles are seen in the family-to-family visitation done on a weekly basis always initiated by the Rabita community executive body, the community meetings and planning, and how local resources/items are mobilized to meet local needs in member families.
Here is how that is: The community executive body of the Rabita guides the members of the community into a local election session to select a family to be visited. Usually in the election process of the family to be seen cards are to be cast that bear the word (Yes) and the rest marked (NO) each family within the community will be given a chance to pick a card. This is done to ensure transparency in the process of family selection. Therefore, a family that picks the card marked (Yes) will be selected and the ones with (No) will have to wait for another election in the next family.
This process of election is always done in the selected family while the general assembly that comprises all families participate in this important activity to ensure inclusion and transparency in the process. The visitation is done once a week and most times it happens on Sunday.
On the selected date and week, the members of the communities have to go with certain items to be presented to that family on that day of visitation as agreed by the members of the community. These items include,
- Bars of washing Soap
- Cups/Kgs of Sugar
- And an amount of 2,000SSP is about 4 dollars – where 2 dollars is given to the family and the other 2 dollars is to be put into the account of the community.
The collections from the families are projected to help in other business ideas that is always opened after 6 months from the savings realized from the family visitation the (2 dollars) that goes into the account of the community and the executive body plans a small project together with the assembly as this, in turn, helps the members of the communities in terms of loans and meeting other family difficulties and economic development. Here they meet their local needs and invest savings into their local economy.
Community Social Development (CSD) in the Rabita
Rabita has proved to be a successful unifying factor for communities, bringing families and community members together. The success of the one is linked to the other member, the community together to beat poverty and emerge from the crisis, improving the community’s wellbeing. The Rabita communities have one goal: to see that all families, individuals, or community members have development opportunities for their social wellbeing. The Rabita communities undertake the following activities to build peace among the families and members of the Community.
- Community Cultural Dances: they organized dances especially on big festival days and occasions of celebration and on quarterly progress in the community, elderly men and women always lead the young in this event to ensure that their cultures remain alive and also as a form of entertainment
- Local Dialogues in the community: they promote local dialogues among families that are involved in domestic violence. This is done through the help of the disciplinary committee entrusted to handle family issues and they are composed of elderly women and men.
Community Participation in the Rabita
“The model involves every one of the above, and because all are involved and their ideas are heard, the coming together is more and all get involved in working towards a positive future for themselves as a community.”
Rabita is composed of men, women, youths and the elderly. In a given community a number of about 40- 60 individuals make up a group of Rabita. The community of the Rabita has an executive body led by a chairperson who serves for a period of two years. There is a council of elders that is very central in the role of advisory. These elders are mostly composed of men and women in a total of (7) Seven. It is interesting that people in the community/Rabita groups taking control of their future. The model involves every one of the above, and because all are involved and their ideas are heard, the coming together is more and all get involved in working towards a positive future for themselves as a community. Rabita community spirit is strong, they get along always and as a community together they work together to create a positive future.
The center has been facilitating community projects in Yei River County and we are happy as a community interest organization to be part of the development of a positive future for the communities. We stimulate community participation, invest in CED and empower community members, creating stronger and more connected communities. We want to see more communities take charge of their own future in different ways. We believe our role is to support community members to identify and take collective action on issues that are important to them.
You can help us rebuild communities affected by South Sudan’s decades of armed conflict and violence in a sustainable way by donating to the center. Every Donation Big or Small, would help rebuild livelihoods, bring together communities torn apart by war, and build a stronger community that will be more resilient in the future.