Jamaican Civil Society Organisations Get Multi-Million Dollar Boost

Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska (right), Head of EU Delegation to Jamaica, signs documents to signify the launch of the EU-funded Civil Society Boost Initiative (CSBI) project to be implemented by RISE Life Management Services. Awaiting their turn to sign are (from left) Gregory McLure, Board Chairman, and Sonita Morin Abrahams, Executive Director of RISE Life Management Services. The occasion was the CSBI launch and conference held at the Jamaica Conference Centre on Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Under the project, civil society organizations will receive intensive training to build capacity as they carry out their varied roles in community development and social justice.

The nation’s social infrastructure will receive a substantial boost through the launch of the European-Union funded Civil Society Boost Initiative (CSBI), a multi-faceted programme aimed at helping civil society groups to build capacity as they carry out their varied roles in community development and social justice.

The €500,000 programme (J$68 million), which was launched at the Jamaica Conference Centre on March 8, 2017, will be implemented by RISE Life Management Services, a Jamaican civil society organisation (CSO) with a 27-year track record in intervention work, while attending to the needs of vulnerable at-risk youth and other challenging issues being experienced by the population.

Under the programme, civil society groups working in specific areas (violence against women, violence against children, at-risk youth, persons with disabilities, LGBT, community development, violence prevention, etc.) are invited to apply for an intensive capacity-building training programme which will last over a nine-month period and give them an opportunity to compete for a pool of J$10 million which has been allocated for sub-granting to the selected CSOs.

The Civil Society Boost Initiative, which RISE Life Executive Director Sonita Morin Abrahams says is intended to “transform the Civil Society landscape in Jamaica” in meeting the goals as laid out in the National Development Plan’s Vision 2030, would assist civil society in playing a more strategic role in fostering a secure, cohesive and just society. Abrahams also said the Initiative includes the development of a CSO Capacity Handbook, the establishment of a network of CSOs, as well as advocacy training and development of social enterprise models to benefit marginalised women and youth.

Shared challenges

Speaking at the launch, European Union Ambassador to Jamaica, Malgorzata Wasilewska, said that as a former human rights activist herself (in her native Poland), she well understood the obstacles facing CSOs, and the nature of the struggle. “I’m very pleased to support this initiative on behalf of the European Union, and look forward to the successes that will emerge out of this very valuable and important work,” she said.

Representatives from both sides of the House gave unsparing praise to RISE Life Management and the work it has done to spearhead the Civil Society project. Attorney-General and MP Marlene Malahoo-Forte QC described the work of the sector and the contributions of RISE Life Management as “absolutely vital to development and to achieving far-reaching growth and prosperity for Jamaicans.”

Opposition Spokesperson on Youth and Culture and Member of Parliament Lisa Hanna also pledged her support to RISE Life in its ongoing work of providing health-related, employability, entrepreneurship and general life skills for vulnerable populations.

Both public officials placed their remarks in the context of International Women’s Day, which coincided with the launch, pointing to the unacceptable levels of violence in the society as a whole and against women in particular.

The Civil Society conference also saw workshops on various aspects of building and sustaining CSO capacity, including Public Relations and Communications, Advocacy and Governance, Project Cycle Management, Funding Diversification, and the positive impact that networking and utilising a Collective Approach can have on the work of CSOs.