Constituency Officers in St. Kitts, Selected, Trained and Mobilized
Basseterre, St. Kitts — Five Constituency Officers have been mobilized into their respective constituencies as the newest government office; the Department of Constituency Empowerment has been operationalized.
The Department has merged its three main pillars: resilient livelihoods, community activism and participatory governance into one broad project entitled, “The Expansion of Democracy and the Promotion of Participatory and Community-Based Governance”
As a result of this, the Department has decided to mobilize these constituency officers: Fitzroy Clarke officer for constituency #3, Avonis Jones #4, Solomon Powell #6, Vancelyn Williams #7 and D. Larissa Chiverton for constituency #8.
They will operate as field officers primarily mandated to speak with constituents, collect data, understand the constituents’ needs and represent their issues in the Department.
Dr Joyelle Clarke, the Department’s Director says the constituency officers will function as the on the ground, go-to person.
“The information they collect are collated [pooled], analyzed at our Department Headquarters in order for the Department to get a better picture of what is really needed for constituency development in St Kitts,” Clarke said.
The Director added having the officers, will work in the constituents’ favour since they would now have an alternative other than the airwaves to express their challenges.
“The Constituency Officer would collect individual concerns, group-based concerns and should be able to provide them with the best possible solutions or recommendations for dealing with their challenges.”
So far, the officers have participated in various themed sessions which included a presentation by the Human Resources Department on Working in the Civil Service and another on Working with Communities by Dr Hermia Morton-Anthony. Mr. Pierre Liburd, a senior Youth Empowerment Officer spoke to the officers on Empowering Youth, while one of the most asked about themes, Land Access for All, with one session concentrating on Land and the other concentrating on Housing were presented by Mr Halva Hendrickson, Head of the Privatization Unit and Ms Judith Rawlins manager of the National Housing Cooperation.
Other sessions included Money Matters by Sybil Welsh from the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank; Superintendent Lionel Moore on Security and Personal Safety and Dr Patrick Martin, Chief Medical Officer, focused on Addressing Community-based Health Issues. Rounding out the training, Ms Gloria Mills, a retired Guidance Counselor, challenged the officers on Ethics in the Workplace.
Meanwhile, the officer for #6, Solomon Powell said, “Constituency Officers now have a wealth of information that we can disseminate to persons to help them overcome the challenges they face in relation to housing, Social Security, loans, entrepreneurship, health care etc.”
While Fitzroy Clarke, the officer for #3 said, “The training sessions were a five course meal that has prepared us with the necessary soup, greens, meat, juice and dessert to sustain and maintain us on our empowerment journey.”
After their first two weeks in training the officers went out into their respective constituencies to conduct observational field data research.
Following that exercise, several other experts were called in to address matters that constituents were most frequently asking. These sessions included presentations by professionals from the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF), St Kitts Investment Promotion Agency (SKIPA), Department of Youth Empowerment, Department of Probation and Child Protection Services, Social Security, Essence of Nature, a new business venture springing out of ECCB’s Entrepreneurship Course, Ministry of Education, Human Resources Management Department on scholarships, Solid Waste Management Corporation (SWMC), Development Bank of St Kitts and Nevis and St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla National Bank Ltd., Ministry of Tourism, National Entrepreneurial Development Division, Intellectual Property Office, Department of Fisheries, Department of Sports and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
Notably, Director Clarke said, Constituency Officers will function quite differently from other community-based officers. Although they will deal with issues that overlap, the Department will have a close working relationship to ensure its Officers do not duplicate other Department’s work but instead complement each other.
“Our Constituency Officers will be focusing on every single person: not [only] children, the vulnerable and the indigent, but every single constituent and group-based needs. That officer is there so that your representative can understand what you need, can take your suggestion, and can implement policies and legislation based on what is coming from the ground, the hallmark of good participatory governance. It is one step towards community governance and management process.”
Director Clarke says she is hopeful that constituents be open to the officers since the elected representatives will not be able to consult with them [constituents] on a daily basis. The officers, she says, will essentially expand the reach of the representatives by being that on-the-ground presence. Clarke says constituents should be aware that the officers will be there for every citizen since the Department is there to represent them and to understand their needs and essentially what the Government of St Kitts-Nevis can do to help.
The officers will be officially launched during the 2014 staging of Agriculture Open Day.
For the latter half of 2014, the Department is expecting to mobilize officers for constituencies number one, two and five.
In the meantime, a handing over ceremony is being planned where officers will receive certificates and a package which includes uniforms, tools for field work and access to their office space at various Community Centers across the island.