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Bridging the gap between citizen and municipality- an alumna story of Sandra Afriyie Nartey

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Sandra Afriyie (37) comes from Ghana and currently works as a public relations officer at GWMA (Ga West Municipal Assembly). In 2017 she came to the Netherlands to follow the programme Citizen Participation and Inclusive Governance at The Hague Academy for Local Governance.

 Sandra is not a traditional Holland alumna, and actually came to the Netherlands quite unexpectedly. “I like to do research and browse for professional courses, and then I came across The Hague Academy’s call for civil servants around the world to apply for the Citizen Participation Programme. I looked at the criteria and thought I stood a chance, but I did not get my hopes up. However, I was invited for an interview a few weeks later and was actually selected for the program together with three others out of 2000 applicants. That was amazing.” 

The entire duration of the programme was about three weeks, and Sandra and her course mates stayed in a hotel in The Hague. But because Sandra has a background in municipal work she was able to do a short internship with the municipality of Rotterdam during which she stayed with a Dutch host family. “It was very nice to stay with a family for a week after spending two weeks alone in a hotel. The family had two little children and the husband actually worked for the Rotterdam municipality as well, so that made the commutes more pleasant. I stayed in one of the children’s bedrooms, which was full of toys and it brought back many fond memories.”                                          

Sandra  learned a lot during her time in the Netherlands, and she was eager to implement this in her professional life. “During the programme, we visited the Delft Client Contact centre, which was very helpful for my work in Ghana. In my home country we don’t have one central location where people can come for their municipal problems. We rather have one central client service center situated in the municipal office and sometimes citizens feel reluctant to come there but in Delft's, it is at a different location and separate from the Municipal office. This makes the citizens feel more encouraged to walk in with their complaints.  After returning home, I wanted to find a way to implement this too. I also learned a lot with regards to budget planning and the role of the citizen. It must be participatory and therefore the public must be allowed to make their input. During my experience in Rotterdam, I learned of a project where citizens are able to present their own ideas for the municipality with a small part of the budget. The best idea is actually implemented thanks to the reserved money and benefits everyone.”

Sandra has also contributed in restructuring Community Information Centers in her municipality. “They are more like community broadcast centres. They broadcast local information, such as public announcements but also more important messages such as missing children and encouraging young people to get off the street.” 

Dutch Culture

What was the most remarkable thing in Dutch culture according to Sandra? “The amount of bikes… they are everywhere. Everyone uses them and my life would have been so easy if I knew how to ride a bike. I was also surprised at the order on the Dutch roads. There is a lot of traffic, but everything is still so organized. I also love how no space is wasted in the Netherlands. The country is so small but every space is used, and the Netherlands is so cosmopolitan. Every nationality and race is accepted and as a foreign visitor you actually feel comfortable and welcome. I really love this about Dutch culture.” 

 ”What I miss most… the shopping” Sandra laughs. “It may sound ridiculous, but every shop is so close and there are so many. I also really liked the Dutch food, so I miss that as well.” Sandra would definitely encourage international students to come to the Netherlands. “(Almost) everyone speaks English and it makes it so much easier to study or work here. The Dutch people are very open and this makes it easy to live in the Netherlands and they provide high-quality education. The country is also small so that makes it easy to travel from one part to the other to see any place you wish to. So if you have any opportunity to go (study) abroad – just do it!”

Sandra in short 

Sandra Afriyie Nartey is Development Communication Professional with over 10 years’ experience in media, communications, stakeholder engagement, participatory governance, community relations and social accountability. Sandra has in recent years worked in different capacities with different organizations, including Metro TV Ghana in various capacities including as a Production Assistant, Reporter and Head of International News Desk and with Organization for African Development as Online Journalist and Project Coordinator.  Her advice to fellow Holland Alumni and international students is to focus on your areas of interest and strive to make a positive impact in that direction, because you never know what doors it may open. 

Find Sandra in this website or on Linkedin

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