Embraced by the mountains and nestled in the quiet countryside, Al-Qaranat village is beautiful and remote. At one time, however, a closer look might have revealed individual households, each struggling to cope with a lack of basic services; and daunted by the arduous five-hour journey required to fetch water from the nearest spring, once or even twice every day. Having lost hope, some had begun simply to wait for external assistance.
Tamkeen is an Arabic word, meaning “empowerment.” It is also the approach employed by the UNDP Social Protection for Community Resilience Project implemented in partnership with the local Social Development Fund. Based on the assumption that people are capable of solving their own problems, the project engages communities to identify their most pressing challenges, make plans of action, and use the resources they already have – including cooperation with other community members – to overcome them. As a way to ensure sustainability, communities establish Village Cooperative Councils (VCC) – small groups of men and women in equal numbers, elected to take the lead in planning and coordinating efforts.
"People have never had any elections whatsoever before in our village until they had to select the members of our Village Cooperative Council,” says VCC member, Yasmeen Mohammed. Not only are women equally represented, she says, “We, as women, are actively involved.”
Another VCC member, Mujammal Al-Jawbi explains that, “We were trained on how to logically identify and prioritize our needs as a community, make use of our local resources and motivate the community members to step in, themselves, and not wait for external assistance.”
For Al-Qaranat village, access to clean drinking water was easily identified as a top priority. Says Hizam Yahya, “The issue was raised to the community along with an action plan, and everybody was excited to put an end to this suffering. They all participated – some with money, some with effort and others with assets.”
With their concerted effort, the community was able to build three water tanks in various locations, purchase a water pump and install piping to deliver water to every house in the village, ultimately benefiting an approximate 2,000 people. “It’s something we never believed we could do on our own,” says Hizam.
The initiative demonstrated the benefits of involving all members of society and working as a single team with shared interests. “Women worked side by side with men on waste collection, improving the condition of roads and raising awareness on prevention of cholera,” says Kawkab Hajjar. And, as a result of this more inclusive approach, the council has determined to provide reading lessons as a way to empower illiterate women.
“We used to wait for help to come, but no more!” says Ali Saleh. “Now we all get out and work as one and the problem is over in no time. Now we all realize the enormous difference between team effort and individual effort!”
The Al-Qaranat Village Cooperative Council is just one of 37 councils established in Sharess district and empowering 21,592 people.
The Social Protection for Community Resilience Project (SPCRP) is funded and supported by the European Union (EU) and implemented by UN Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with The Social Fund for Development (SFD). The US$28 million project aims to enhance the purchasing capacity of vulnerable communities while restoring community infrastructure, improving access to key services, and building the capacity of communities and local authorities.