'Tajaawob': Wala', Nadera and Mohammed: ambitious plans through advocacy and lobbying

Ramallah: Wala’ Shanti is a women’s activist in Qalaqilya and member of the Community Committee in Tajaawob project, which MIFTAH implements in partnership with a number of other local and international organizations. She is also a member of the youth local council in her city and she wants to fulfill a dream: to place the Qalqilya Zoo on the list of tourist sites in Palestine, given that it is the only zoo in Palestine. Wala’ adds that it has no counterpart in neighboring countries as well, such as Jordan while even Israel recognizes it and has put it on its tourist map.

Wala’ and her group in the council set their sights on this goal and have gotten support from MIFTAH through its Tajaawob project and its lobbying and advocacy workshop. Wala’ explains why this is so important to her. “We feel that Qalqilya has always been marginalized even if it is the only district that has a zoo and therefore one of the most significant tourist sites.” She says that once it is on the tourist map of Palestine, it will also serve as an economic pillar of support for the city, the district and the country in general.

Wala’ said the zoo is built on an area of 46 dunams and includes 53 types of animals. Qalqilya Zoo even signed a contract to bring in new and rare animals to the zoo, which recently joined WAZA, an international association that categorizes zoos according to certain criteria, “which is an achievement in itself,” she says.

In this sense, the latest training offered by MIFTAH through Tajaawob project to this group is very significant because it offered the members of the team a methodology for planning and implementing lobbying and advocacy campaigns and influencing relevant parties towards their goal.

In the village of Habla, in the Qalqilya district, mother of four Nadera Rayyan is a volunteer in the Habla town council and is working along with her team to rehabilitate and renovate the playground in the village. She wants to replace the worn-down and broken playground equipment with new ones so the children in her village and those around it can all enjoy the new attraction safely.

To achieve this goal, Nadera took part in the advocacy and lobbying workshop offered by MIFTAH in Habla, Qalqilya and the nearby village of Azzoun. "It was very useful," Nadera says. "We now think and plan better for the future and even produced a special study for our project." She explained that they are now at the stage of implementation and addressing officials, adding that they are setting up a Facebook page for the project and publishing a special newsletter to boost support for their lobbying and advocacy campaign. "Ultimately, we want to turn our village's playground into an inviting place for our children and their families in Habla and in neighboring villages," Nadera said, adding that part of the project also includes planting trees along the village's roads.

In Azzoun, priorities differ, according to Dr. Mohammed Mattar, director of the Standards and Evaluation Center in the Ministry of Education. "We want to improve the quality of education in our village's schools through accountability," he explains. "This means involving all relevant parties from schools, to the village council and all the way to the education directorate, in order to improve the quality of our educational system and therefore improve our students' academic achievement."

Mattar said Azzoun has around 3,000 students enrolled in the village's seven schools, but that their scores in basic subjects such as math, science and Arabic are low. "The workshop MIFTAH provided through "Tajaawob" has helped us to promote the idea of accountability and for the schools to voice the problems they face and the challenges they come up against." He went on to say that they devised an ambitious plan for future activities and a mechanism for carrying them out including budgetary needs. Mattar said they are even planning to delegate researchers to schools to gather data that could help them in their wider plan of improving Azzoun's educational system.

"Tajaawob" coordinator Abeer Zaghari said three training and planning workshops in all were held entitled "Planning for lobbying and advocacy campaigns" in Qalqilya, Habla and Azzoun. The two-day workshops were carried out under the supervision of three facilitators who offered participants training on the concept and skills of lobbying and advocacy. Each group then came up with a campaign, each for their own project.

Zaghari went on to say that 45 men and women participated in the workshops and that through "Tajaawob", MIFTAH would contribute financially and technically to supporting the groups. The campaign began in June and will continue until October of this year. She also said that two workshops had been held prior to this one in the three target areas in addition to Um Salmouna in the Bethlehem district and Froush Bet Djan in the Jordan Valley, during which the participants chose their priorities for their campaigns according to their communities’ needs.

Ruham Nimri, one of the workshop's coaches said that: "These kinds of

workshops are extremely important because they provide trainees with skills to carry out lobbying and advocacy campaigns based on plans they formulated prior to the start of the campaign. This includes mobilizing public opinion and the media in favor of their cause, which is exactly what the beneficiaries succeeded in doing."

"Tajaawob" is a project funded by DFID, the British Department for International Development, and is being carried out by a consortium headed by the British Council, which includes MIFTAH, AMAN, Palestinian Vision, OXFAM and BBC Media Action. The project's implementation began in 2013 and will continue until 2015 and currently targets local committees in the areas of Froush Beit Djan/Jordan Valley, Um Salmouna, Bethlehem, the city of Qalqilya, and the villages of Azzoun and Habla, also in the Qalqilya district. 

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