Convergent Basic Social Services
© UNICEF Mongolia/2007/Jim Holmes
Rural community participating in Family Education Assessment
Since 1990, Mongolia has undergone dramatic socio-economic and political changes from a centrally planned system to a market economy. There have been significant socio-economic achievements, but challenges still remain since there are issues such as 36% of population living below the poverty line, widening disparities between urban and rural areas, and poverty in peri-urban centres due to in-migration from rural areas.
“Unintended” consequences of the reforms brought about issues on children such as increased school drop-out, abandoned and street children, working children, commercial sexual exploitation of children and trafficking of young women. The extent of rural disadvantage in Mongolia is striking. The cost of providing social services to a population dispersed over such a vast territory is high, and a challenge for a small, developing nation with a weak rural economy.
It is difficult to reach many of the poor in the rural areas, because they are scattered, isolated and mobile. Besides migration between urban centres and the countryside, there are also movements from borders and remote areas to the centre and from cities to foreign countries. All this movement has rendered large sections of the population, especially women and children, more vulnerable and economically insecure.
In order to reduce the disparities between urban and rural areas, the Government of Mongolia has developed the Regional Development Strategy (RDS), dividing the country into five regions. The UN agencies developed the assistance framework (UNDAF) to support the Government to achieve the MDGs and western region and “ger (traditional tent) shanty areas in Ulaanbaatar will be focus areas for technical assistance. Below are some facts on situation of children and women in Western region and Ulaanbaatar.
The major social problems concentrate in households migrated from countryside to peri-urban districts and herding families in remote rural areas who have low access to and utilization of basic services.
© UNICEF Mongolia/2007/Jim Holmes
Ger-Kindergarten in Zavkhan soum, Uvs aimag
The Convergent Basic Social Services Programme (CBSS) aims at improving outcomes for children based on a life-cycle approach starting from maternal health, safe motherhood, early childhood, pre-school age, learning years up to adolescence.
The programme promotes effective convergence and delivery of basic services through the use of Family Empowerment Strategy – especially among the disadvantaged and vulnerable children and families. The programme is coordinated by the Office of National Committee for Regional Development at the national level, and at the sub-national level, there are working groups which provide technical assistance and monitor the implementation of the activities.
The Programme focuses on 8 soums (rural districts) of 7 aimags (provinces) and 12 khoroos (urban sub-district) of 4 districts in Ulaanbaatar. The cornerstone of the programme is to develop and implement the family empowerment strategy (FES) in creating demand for, ensuring access to, and increasing utilization of basic social services in the focus areas. It encourages interventions that are critical to child growth and development using the Triple-A (Awareness – Assessment - Action) approach. The Family Empowerment Strategy has adopted a rights-based and results-based approach in planning and implementing community projects. It also aims at generating additional investment for children and putting children’s interests first in the development agenda. Family Empowerment Strategy (FES) was developed as a model for bottom-up participatory process of planning. Participating families have been educated and empowered to take actions for the growth and development of their children. The strategy has helped develop innovative approaches to enhance access to basic services especially for disadvantaged children. This has led to increased demand for and better utilization of services. It has also improved service delivery and reduced the workload of service providers. This has already resulted in improvements in key indicators used for family education and assessment purposes.
The family empowerment strategy focuses on simple and practical indicators as well as a method to monitor and evaluate changes in the status of children at the family, community and soum levels. It has raised awareness among service providers as well as the beneficiaries on the importance and need for the convergence of basic social services for the growth and development of children.
Communities identify the priority areas based on the findings of the family education and assessment, a visualized and participatory training and assessment tool, and develop projects. The community-identified projects (CIP) are implemented, and monitored by communities and local governments in the following areas:
- Strengthening capacity of service providers and local decision makers
- Parent/caregiver & volunteer training and education
- Early childhood care and development / Outreach early childhood development
- Monitoring of child growth & development
- Community based information and monitoring system
- Micronutrient supplementation
- Promotion for Potable water supply and sanitation
- Non-formal education
- Home/Community gardening
- Promotion of an environment fit for children
- HIV/AIDS/STI Prevention
- Child Protection
- Child Participation
Community-identified projects have helped to bring about certain positive behavioural changes in families. Parents are now active seekers of basic services, and the roles and responsibilities in family development is equally shared by fathers and mothers. Parents are now monitoring the growth and development of children using growth charts, nutritional status information and development milestones. The knowledge of parents has increased through communication and training materials. Participation of community members in community-identified projects has increased; parents and community members collaborate more often with professionals and trained volunteers, trainers and advisors. Community members participate in annual project planning and in working groups which have strengthened partnership between local leaders and communities. The bottom-up approach ensured that the community problems identified and addressed.
Capacities at sub-national level improved to address the issues related child health, nutrition and preschool education, which resulted in increase of coverage of basic services, through promotion of outreach activities and mobilization of local resources.
Partnerships with international NGOs such as World Vision International, Save the Children Fund (UK), Catholic Church Mission, Mercy Corps, and with national NGOs such as Mongolian Family Federation for World Peace and Unification have been established and the programme has provided technical assistance in promoting the Family-Empowerment Strategy.