South Africa’s most marginalised communities face major obstacles in accessing elected
representatives to engage about their challenges. Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) play
a vital role in supporting communities to attain this democratic right. In areas of public
health and public safety, CSOs often can be a way to connect communities and provincial
departments. This does not always bring the results that communities demand. Working
more closely with legislatures, enabling ordinary people to explain the issues they face and
raising public awareness of the problems they are confronting will strengthen democracy.
For CSOs, this role has not been explored much. Not only are the issues faced by communities
varied and complex, but organisations also face limitations in capacity and knowledge about
engaging with provincial representatives.
From 2018-2020, Democracy Works Foundation, in partnership with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and with co-funding from the European Union, are supporting improved engagement between provincial legislatures and communities in the public health and public safety sectors.
The programme provides training and mentoring on how to conduct research and engage the public in important issues.
By connecting Members of Provincial Legislatures (MPLs) with organisations working to advance the rights of women and traditionally marginalised groups such as young people and persons with disabilities (PWDs) the programme will ensure relevant policy areas are better represented at the provincial level.
The programme is active in three provinces – Limpopo, Northern Cape and North West – and works with MPLs on provincial Portfolio Committees, which are responsible for health, safety and security issues.