USAID/Zimbabwe has made a major donation of audio equipment to the Parliament of Zimbabwe. In a ceremony at the Zimbabwe Parliament on September 22, Ambassador Charles Ray and USAID Director Karen Freeman formally handed over a new sound archiving and voting system worth about USD$500, 000. The equipment will improve audibility in both houses, allow for bilingual translation, allow for secret voting and, finally, enable the media to obtain audio recordings of any sitting of Parliament. The ceremony also included remarks by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, President of the Senate Edna Madzongwe and House Speaker Lovemore N.M. Moyo.
The equipment was made available under a Memorandum of Understanding with Parliament signed in May 2010. “USAID has had a long standing relationship with the Parliament of Zimbabwe and this donation is symbolic of our wishes to continue to work with Parliament to expand its capacity,” said USAID Director Karen Freeman. “We are delighted to provide equipment to support and improve the daily function of this fundamental branch of government.”
In Lebanon Haigazian University will be presented with $450,081 to directly support its student financial aid program. 356 Haigazian University students with demonstrable financial need from all over Lebanon will be given scholarships with these U.S. funds, made available through USAID. Without this assistance, these students would not be able to study at Haigazian University. Lebanese American University (LAU) will be presented with $1,178,122 to support its Financial Aid & Scholarships Fund for both campuses in Jbeil and Beirut. 249 qualified Lebanese students benefit from this program.
In Albania USAID will open a Public Information Office in one of Albania’s District Courts. To tackle corruption in Albania’s judicial system, USAID’s Rule of Law program works with a set of pilot courts to improve their performance and accountability to citizens. One of several accountability measures introduced by USAID, public information offices serve as one-stop shops where citizens have quick and easy access to information on court proceedings and their legal rights.
In El Salvador a signing ceremony for the Global Development Alliance (GDA) with the Salvadoran Foundation for Health and Human Development (FUSAL). USAID will help expand FUSAL’s Libras de Amor program to two additional municipalities in Sonsonate to combat poor eating habits and malnutrition.
In Jakarta a forum will present eight finalists – that represent the finest – of more than 75 projects which entered a competition in Asia, organized by Climate Technology Initiative (CTI), and sponsored by USAID. Eight clean energy competition finalists, reps from more than 150 energy professionals, entrepreneurs, donors, banks, partners, project developers from Indonesia and Asia. The forum is a means to bridge the financial gap between creative innovators in clean energy with private investors who are willing to fund these opportunities.
Regaining its footing after a quarter century of conflict, northern Uganda is bustling with activity. Communities are working to restore local infrastructure and citizens are going about the business of rebuilding homes and lives. However the political reality is that the political leadership wanted to expedite the return process while also provide people with crucial information to returnees so they could make informed decisions about their lives.
Radio is not only the most reliable source of information for returning communities but also serves as the medium of choice to access the information people are seeking. However radio stations also have a limited ability to deliver the kind of content needed.
To encourage people to return and help them with their rebuilding efforts, the Lamele Theatre Artists, in collaboration with USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives, spearheaded the production of a radio drama. Ajing Conga, Bila Pa Ladwar (I Will Strengthen My Knees – The Song of a Hunter) focuses on three families that have returned to northern Uganda and are grappling to rebuild their lives. The show is providing returnees with crucial information on education, health, culture, security, and governance.
Three stations aired the 72 episodes of the radio drama three times a week. Once the production finished, the Lamele Theater Artists took the show on the road and performed skits live in villages. The shows, some of which were revised, were well received by northern Ugandans who were able to identify with the challenges and issues portrayed.
Welcome to my debut in the brave new world of blogging at USAID.
We’ve made the most of our time during Dr. Shah’s first Africa trip as the head of this amazing agency; only in the home stretch have I found a few minutes to share an observation or two.
With impressions still intense from a day and a night in Darfur – most notably, visiting under a scorching sun a vast and desert-dusty camp for internally displaced people that thousands of victims of violence, mostly women and children, now know as home – we rose at dawn to head to Juba in the far south of Sudan. Here the climate is different in every sense.
Right off the bat we met with our civil society partners in the effort to improve governance and confidence in democracy. The Sudanese Group for Democratic Elections and the Sudanese Network for Democratic Elections provide voter education and poll-watching in the country’s north and south, respectively. They face very different political situations but similar challenges in trying to protect the integrity of the electoral process. USAID facilitates this grassroots work with technical guidance and
Kenya is using cutting-edge technology to help increase confidence in democracy -- facial recognition software and thumbprint scanners are used to issue voter IDs that help guarantee each citizen a voice in the electoral process. USAID coordinates support for this pilot project with 11 other donors.
Today we visited an innovative, biometric voter registration site designed to strengthen the electoral system ahead of the August constitutional referendum.
With support from USAID, Kenya’s Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) is using the latest technology — webcams, thumbprint scanners and light-weight printers, all solar-powered so they’re not reliant on the grid — to protect the integrity of the registration process.
Of Kenya’s 210 constituencies, 18 are piloting this electronic registration system. So far, 1.5 million Kenyans have electronically registered and received their voter ID cards at pilot sites throughout the country.