The role of civil society organisations in promoting community participation
Among the tenets of the Human Rights based Approach to participation is empowerment. Empowerment involves equipping communities with skills to voice their concerns in seeking better services for their well being. Health Unit management committees as established by the ministry of Health are structures utilized to promote community participation in health at the community level.
In an initiative to promote the decentralizing of the health system, the government of Uganda through Ministry of Health called for an establishment of HUMCs at each government health facility as a way of empowering community members to participate in influencing health system for better service delivery.
This is also due to the fact that Community participation has been identified among the key elements which must be utilized in advancing for the right to health. These committees were established with a responsibility of oversight role at the facility through inspection and supervision of work at the facilities all aimed at improving the quality of health care in these facilities.
As part of an action research process, the Center for Health Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) carried out a case study on two HUMCs in Kikoolimbo health center III in Kyankwanzi district and Nyamiringa health center II Kiboga district. The purpose of this case study was to provide an understanding of the experiences of HUMCs in performing their roles and what role Civil Society can play to support them perform their roles and responsibilities as well as advancing health rights and addressing health inequities using the human rights based approach.
Astonishingly, our findings revealed that these two health unit management committees had limited knowledge of the HUMCs guidelines established by the Ministry of Health which clearly elaborates the roles and responsibilities of these health structures. This therefore steered the training of these committee members in order to equip them with knowledge on what is expected of them hence improved performance. After the trainings, community dialogues were also held to inform community members about the existence of these committees as well as their roles and responsibilities. We thought this would foster HUMCs performance since majority of the community members within the district were also not aware of existence of the HUMCs but also there guidelines,
This intervention by CEHURD has seen the growth of these HUMCs and transition in leadership. It is worth reporting that after the training, one of the HUMCS team realized that it had over leaved its usefulness and opted to hand over power to a newly trained team that they thought was still energetic to carry on the work. On the 25th March 2015 we witnessed the handing over of office by the old members of the HUMC of Kikoolimbo health center III to the newly selected members. As a means of appreciation, old members were awarded with certificates of service appreciating them for their dedicated efforts in promoting improved health service delivery at the facility. This gives us a lesson that when communities are empowered, they can take it upon them to differentiate between performing and non-performing committees or structures hence seeking for change.