Maria Juam is the president of her local Social Accountability Monitoring Committee in Metangula town, Mozambique. A socially-minded pillar of the community, Maria is a vocal catalyser of change within it.
Metulangala sits within Niassa province on the banks of Lake Malawi. Before 2012, the town and the 12 other villages within the committee’s reach, bore little resemblance to the community Maria and her neighbours now enjoy.
There was limited and inconsistent access to water and none of the villages had access to electricity. On top of this, there was no ambulance, no cooling system in the mortuary and pavements were inadequate or non-existent; these services had all been promised by local government but not delivered.
Maria’s interest in the social and economic rights of citizens drew her to become one of the first members of United Purpose’s Social Accountability Monitoring Committee, set up in 2012. Along with the other 36 committee members – three representatives from each of the 12 neighbouring villages – Maria attended training on Social Accountability principles and tools. The training also focused on disability and gender inclusion, and the committee boasts 13 female members.
Since the committee began their social accountability work, the members are now living in what feels like an entirely new area. 11 of the villages have full access to electricity, with the final village currently installing the infrastructure. They now have sufficient water access, pavements, an ambulance and the mortuary cooling system they had requested. In Metulangala, rubbish collections now happen much more frequently.
Maria stresses that her work is not just about demanding services from local government but also about a two-way relationship with citizens, and the committee are always finding innovative ways to strengthen this relationship. A walk around the local market might find you toe-tapping to the encouraging notes from the local radio on the importance on paying your taxes – sampled directly from a music album produced by the committee.
Out of all the remarkable changes she has overseen over the last few years, Maria tells us: “the biggest change for me, personally, has been the opportunity to be involved in making change happen”.