medical care

Strategies for achieving community-led development

WEEMA Board member, Habtamu Lamore

WEEMA Board member, Habtamu Lamore

Strategies for achieving community-led development

While “community-led development” is gaining traction in the development and humanitarian sectors, putting those words into practice is still a big challenge for many nonprofit groups, philanthropists, and government agencies.

This month, WEEMA board member Habtamu Lamore joined global experts to examine what it takes for organizations to truly achieve community engagement and empowerment – key bedrocks of community-led development – in their day-to-day work. The symposium was organized by the Movement for Community-Led Development, a group of 63 global organizations, including WEEMA International, as well as Save the Children, World Vision, and the Hunger Project.

“The bottom line is authenticity,” said Nancy Wilson, CEO of Relief International, who kicked off the all-day gathering in Washington DC. “If we’re going to say we understand the community and what programs are appropriate for that community, then we have to truly understand the community, not our impressions of the community, but their understanding of themselves. Not our assessment of their needs but their assessment of their own assets and aspirations.”

Bonnie Glick, Deputy Administrator of USAID, echoed the sentiment and referred to the agency’s commitment to fostering self-reliance. “If you’re doing something for other people that they could do themselves, you’re not doing them any favors,” she said. “In fact, you’re probably doing them harm.”

Here are some of the key takeaways of the meeting:

Words Matter: Participants agreed that organizations should be sensitive about not using terms such as “beneficiaries,” that undermine community members’ direct involvement and ownership in projects. Words that show the important role played by community members, such as partners and clients, are preferable.

Let Communities Decide: When communities are given a chance to speak out, participate, and decide on a project, it puts them at the partner level, thus fostering self-reliance and resilience. 

WEEMA’s board member Lamore discussed how WEEMA partners closely with local leaders and other community stakeholders to pursue local solutions for local problems. He emphasized the importance of listening and respecting community voices. Because of poor communications – whether due to poor listening or poor translation – organizations tend to ‘hear’ what they presume the community wants.

Citing WEEMA’s community-led approaches, Lamore suggested working with local leaders and hiring local staff to minimize translation challenges. He suggested relying on multiple sources to ensure that community perspectives are valid. Most important of all, he said, NGOs that deliver long-lasting results will build community trust.

Congratulations to Higa Boarding School!

Three cheers to Higa Boarding School and its students

Kudos to Higa Boarding School in Kembata-Tembaro and the 10th grade students who aced the national exams last June. The test results came back last month and 92 percent of the students – 124 of 135 – received top scores, a key step in completing secondary education and advancing to university-level studies. Even more impressive, Higa was the second highest scoring school in all of Ethiopia.

This is a remarkable achievement for the district’s only boarding school and everyone who has been involved since its launch in 2017. In just two years, the school has added two grades – it now has 9th, 10th and 11th grades. Critical equipment and educational resources have also been added to ensure that students – the region’s best and brightest - have the tools they need to succeed.

Special credit goes to community members, the District Education Department, and the local nonprofit group, Gogota Care, which provided critical support in getting the school - a former university property – off the ground. Roots Ethiopia also deserves praise for its efforts.

WEEMA, which provided computers, textbooks, desks, chairs, and other key resources to the school library and computer center last year, is honored to be part of the success.

We were especially heartened by recent feedback we received from a biology teacher about the equipment upgrades. “The computers and the library improvements had a great impact on the results,” he told us.

Students, teachers and school staff, of course, deserve the biggest applause. Their achievements in such a short time are nothing short of remarkable.





WEEMA Receives Top Award in Kembata-Tembaro

WEEMA’s Project Coordinator, Amanuel Abebo, accepts the award on WEEMA’s behalf

WEEMA’s Project Coordinator, Amanuel Abebo, accepts the award on WEEMA’s behalf


WEEMA Receives Top Award in Kembata-Tembaro

 The WEEMA team is thrilled to be honored recently by the Kembata-Tembaro Zone Administration as its top nongovernmental community partner.

 The award, announced last week at the Kembata-Tembaro Zone’s Cultural, Historic and Language Symposium in Durame, recognizes WEEMA’s wide-ranging contributions to improved clean water access, healthcare, and educational opportunities over the past eight years. Amanuel Abebo, WEEMA’s Project Coordinator in Kembata-Tembaro, accepted the award on behalf of WEEMA.

 The plaque reads: “This award is given to WEEMA International for its dedication in the development endeavors of strengthening hospitals through medical equipment support, building and equipping public libraries, establishing and fulfilling early grade kindergarten schools and addressing community needs via potable water supplies.”

 To learn more about these and other community-led projects WEEMA is undertaking in this underserved rural region in southwestern Ethiopia, read our recent blogs here.