2009 Nepal: Keeping Children in Focus (Strategic Evaluation of DACAW UNICEF Nepal)
With the aim to continuously improve transparency and use of evaluation, UNICEF Evaluation Office manages the "Global Evaluation Reports Oversight System". Within this system, an external independent company reviews and rates all evaluation reports. Please ensure that you check the quality of this evaluation report, whether it is “Outstanding”, “Good”, “Almost Satisfactory” or “Unsatisfactory” before using it. You will find the link to the quality rating below, labelled as ‘Part 2’ of the report.
Decentralized Action for Children and Women (DACAW) was established in 1998 by UNICEF Nepal in collaboration with the Government of Nepal as a partnership with the Ministry of Local Development (MLD). It is a community development program with a human rights based approach which seeks to ensure the progressive realization of the rights of children and women. The objective is to build the capacity of families, especially those from disadvantaged communities, as well as local bodies and other duty‐ bearers to plan, implement and monitor child‐rights‐based and responsive service delivery and local governance. Presently DACAW is in the middle of a three year plan which runs from 2008 to 2010 with a total budget of around 28 million USD.
2 Summary of Findings
In the previous chapters it has been documented and described how the Community Action Process (CAP) has produced a large number and variety of results for UNICEF in Nepal both in terms of social mobilization and sector achievements. At the output level a large number of individuals have been recruited into a number of various community groups. Significant outputs have been achieved in the sectors of education, health and protection and valuable planning information has been produced in the form of DAG mapping using a local NGO. At the outcome level results have been observed in terms of changed behavior and attitudes in local communities as well as policy makers and bureaucrats at district and national level.
Attitudes towards the socially excluded and towards violations of child rights have changed and people have changed their behavior in terms of addressing cases of abuse, neglect and discrimination, among others. At the impact level the CAP has resulted in both improved service delivery and community action in sector activities. DACAW has contributed to such achievements as increasing school enrolment, increase in the literacy rate, saving lives of newborns and under‐fives, improved health status of children and increase in protection cases being addressed. However, as noted, while program outputs are being systematically reported based on a results based planning matrix, outcomes and impact are not recorded as systematically and comprehensively. In addition, it was reported that a lot of progress has been made on survival and development, while not as much has been achieved in the area of protection and participation. These points need follow‐up and attention in the next phase.
DACAW has a high degree of relevance both for the beneficiaries on the one hand, and for Government and donors on the other hand. The participatory approach to planning, monitoring and reporting ensures that the needs and priorities of the community members, women, boys and girls are relevant; to which extent is not clear though. The focus groups discussions revealed that the activities are to a large extent relevant to the beneficiaries, although there are important needs and priorities that have not been addressed, such as support to livelihood and income‐generating activities and to vocational training and employment for youth. Furthermore, it was found that DACAW apart from influencing Government policies as shown above, is in line with a number of Government and UN policies and priorities and is promoting the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). DACAW is also in line with the development policies of the main donor, the Norwegian Government, as well as other donors. The focus on participation and empowerment of (most) disadvantaged groups of children and women in order to improve the health status and education of girls and boys as well as prevent abuse and exploitation, among many other things, are priorities of the main donors.
Effectiveness and Efficiency
When it comes to effectiveness the picture is more mixed. In many areas achievements have been according to plan, while in others not. According to some informants too many of the expected results could not bee reached and consequently, DACAW needs to lower its ambitions. This should be noted, especially when developing targets for the nine new districts which most likely will be more challenging.
Assessing the efficiency of DACAW is no easy task as it depends on which level of support it refers to; and it also requires awareness of realistic alternatives. We will therefore limit it to comments on some important aspects of efficiency related to implementation at the community level. The implementation of DACAW, CAP in particular, is largely based on the voluntary work of many individuals; community organization or group member, Community Mobilizers, Female Health Volunteers, Watch Group members, and other community members. Others who do get remuneration, such as the Village Facilitators, have to be considered as volunteering in part as their salaries are so low. Quite a number of these individuals are from disadvantaged households, and some are even from very poor households who take on this work in addition to subsistence labor and household tasks. It was inspiring to observe the energy and enthusiasm of these volunteers. However, they expressed a need to be compensated for costs they have when being away from work and for expenses during trainings, meetings, campaigns and travelling. It is important that the motivation for volunteerism is sustained by offering some kind of compensation or incentives. When that is said, it is our assessment that DACAW is efficient at the community level.
Many different initiatives have been taken to ensure sustainability. First of all, the high level participation and motivation of community members and groups is a precondition for sustainability. However, ensuring a broader stakeholder participation in the communities is important to sustain the momentum that has been created. It is therefore necessary to include men and boys to a greater extent, for example in Paralegal Committees and other community organizations where feasible. Local elites should be included for the purposes of advocacy and influence, not as direct beneficiaries as such. Sustainability of the CAP also hinges on the situation of the Village Facilitators and Community Mobilizers who have very challenging responsibilities. They need to be compensated for costs they have related to their work in terms of compensation and incentives, such as refresher training and exposure visits. The focus of CAP will be increasingly on the (most) disadvantaged groups and this poses a challenge to sustainability. These community members are often in a position where they are struggling for ends to meet and therefore do not have much time and energy to put into DACAW supported activities. That is why livelihood and employment issues need to be addressed by linking up with income‐generation programs and the like.
Organizationally, a number of steps have been taken to ensure sustainability. There is local contribution at all levels of DACAW entry points, from MLD at the central level to the Women’s Federation group at the village level. This creates local ownership, another precondition for sustainability. Ownership was observed by the Evaluation Team at the central level, the district level and the community level. At the central level, the MLD has been influenced by DACAW and taken on DACAW policies, for example the DAG mapping and CFLG. At the district level staff members have been assigned to follow‐up on DACAW implementation and are involved at the village level. At the village level the members of VDC, school, health post, community groups and organizations showed a high degree of ownership by investing their time, money, energy and motivation into the implementation of DACAW. In several districts and VDCs leaders, officials and community members stated that they would carry on even if DACAW would phase out support. Finally, the DACAW systematic approach to phase‐out and hand‐over by developing a plan will increase the chances of sustainability. However, sustainability can only be determined in the future; the proof is in the pudding. Therefore, in order to learn more about the sustainability of results it is recommended for the next phase of DACAW to plan a study of the sustainability in the 5 districts that are being phased out.
The Human Rights Based Approach
DACAW’s approach is based on the human rights based approach (HRBA) which is integral to UNICEF’s mandate. DACAW applies the HRBA by promoting child rights and women’s rights in Government policies and practices; supporting awareness‐raising of rights holders and duty bearers; supporting and promoting participation and empowerment of target groups, and the accountability of duty bearers.
A number of child‐friendly Government policies and child rights have been developed and promoted through DACAW, most notably the DAG mapping and the CFLG, but also a number of others.
Awareness‐raising has taken place at several levels. Government and civil society partners at central, district and village level as well as community members themselves have learned about human rights, child rights and women’s rights, about participatory methodology, harmful traditional practices, among others. The Triple A process (assessment, analysis, action) has developed the capacity of community members to assess their situation, identify and analyze their problems and concerns, and take action individually and collectively.
Children and women have increased their capacities and capabilities through community groups and have organized to claim their rights. They have demanded better services and held local governments and service delivery agencies accountable. Child clubs have been actively engaging in rights advocacy such as the right to quality education, improving school environments, improving health and sanitation, and challenging violence against children.
The HRBA has also helped to improve the status of such excluded groups as Janajatis and Dalits, addressing caste and ethnic discrimination at the same time. It has changed the perceptions and attitudes of people from non‐disadvantaged groups in a number of DACAW areas, who have learned to appreciate the potentials that individual persons have irrespective of their social and economic background. Thus DACAW has contributed to the empowerment of girls and boys, young women and older women, disadvantaged and oppressed people.
Participation is an integral part of DACAW. Child participation in the child and youth clubs is significant as is the participation of community members in planning, implementation and reporting of DACAW activities. DACAW is clearly participatory at the community level, however, whether it is participatory at district, regional and central level is less evident.
3 Conclusions and Recommendations
“DACAW allows us to approach the child at the community level in a holistic manner”. This is the key strength and uniqueness of DACAW. But there are other strengths. It can get significant results in a short time and for relatively small input at the community level.
DACAW initiates and supports numerous innovative pilots and projects, some of which are later taken on by Government and civil society. It is relevant to many layers of society; local communities, local politicians, district and central Government and civil society. It facilitates community efforts and thus promotes community spirit and cohesion which is needed in Nepal today.
DACAW continues to remain highly relevant and effective. In many respects DACAW is also efficient and has taken significant steps to ensure sustainability. Over the past three years, the program has made important and impressive progress as documented in this report. It certainly is a show‐case of UNICEF at its best. However, there is scope for improvements on a number of aspects both due to the context and the program modalities. The following are recommendations that UNICEF may consider in order to ensure that DACAW continues to make a difference to children and adapts to the ongoing changes in Nepal.
Community Action Process
- In order to enable DACAW‐assisted community organizations to further grow as advocacy groups, an effort should be made to include local elites, men and boys in CAP as pressure groups and allies.
- While it is commendable that DACAW has been able to reach out to the (M)DAG, additional support is called for to improve the livelihoods of these households, in order that they will be in a better position to spend their energy on DACAW activities. UNICEF should link up with programs that can support income‐generation activities in these communities.
- Village Facilitators and Community Mobilizers deserve attention in terms of better salaries, incentives, refresher training, and more abundant supply of visual aids and other materials for CAP. This is crucial in order to keep the frontline workers motivated and enthusiastic about DACAW. UNICEF should motivate VDCs to make provisions for adequate support to VFs and CMs through the VDCs’ regular internal resources and their strategic partnership with other funds and programs such as the LGCDP, PAF, VDC block grant and LDF.
- It is desirable to mainstream CAP in the regular programming and budgeting of the central and local governments. This is especially important in the phase‐out districts. The Local Governance and Community Development Program (LGCDP) presents an opportunity in this regard. UNICEF/DACAW should consider providing necessary technical assistance under the umbrella of LGCDP, for getting central and local governments to mainstream CAP activities in those districts.
- In the case of the nine new DACAW mid and far west hill/mountain districts, greater amount of time and effort will need to be spent on group formation, building the capacity of these community groups and to have a functional federation at the VDC level. This might require additional human and financial resources for social mobilization. Given the rugged geography and travel distance within the district, it is difficult for one VF to cover the entire VDC. More than one Village Facilitator per VDC should be considered for these districts.
- DACAW’s District Coordination Committee (DCC) and Village Coordination Committee (VCC) should now be internalized within the established system of local governance. In the districts where DACAW is to phase out, DCC and VCC should be reconstituted as the sub‐committees (for child rights and women’s rights) of DDC and VDC. This can be done through a decision of the District Council, which is in compliance with the Local Self‐Governance Act (LSGA). This will give legitimacy to the DCC and VCC even when DACAW as a project phases out.
- It is important for UNICEF to continue supporting various relevant line agencies at district level to reorient their policies and programs so that they better address issues pertaining to children and women in an integrated manner.
- DACAW has been able to bring relevant sectors together at the district level under the aegis of DDC for the design and implementation of its activities. DACAW’s modus operandi at the district level should serve as an example of how sectors can converge to prepare an integrated district development plan.
- A more comprehensive strategy of linking DACAW with other livelihood programs, such as the Poverty Alleviation Fund (PAF) and the Local Development Fund (LDF) is required for DAG households to better benefit from the integrated sector approach. Efforts should be made at the headquarters level to enter into formal agreements with other agencies implementing livelihood programs.
- UNICEF should continue supporting the PLCs to enhance their legitimacy in their local context. There are at least three ways that such community groups can derive their legitimacy: a) from formal registration with local administration, b) through provisions in an official project document such as DACAW, or c) from trust bestowed by the general public.
- It has been relatively difficult to promote total sanitation among disadvantaged and landless communities, given their lack of resources that prevents them from investing their money for the construction of proper latrines, or drinking water facilities. Plans have recently been made by DACAW, in this regard, which should be implemented as soon as possible in as many CAP‐supported areas as possible.
- The sustainability of the Out of School Programs in (Tulsipur and Biratnagar) municipalities and the transition of graduates to the formal education system will be greatly enhanced if institutional and policy mechanisms can be drawn to include OSP on the agenda of the District Education Office.
Promoting Child Rights in Local Governance
- There is a need to increase program activities and policy influencing on child protection and participation in relation to child survival and development. New plans to more closely connect PLCs and child clubs is a positive step in this direction.
- Community‐level mobilization and advocacy should be linked with national‐level initiatives such as the CFLG in order to deepen ownership of results, increase the relevance of advocacy activities and increase the likelihood of their being sustained in the long‐term.
- UNICEF should establish a wider range of advocacy partnerships with other development stakeholders, particularly at the national level, for a greater pooling of resources, skills and information to promote child rights in local governance.
- UNICEF should adopt a more strategic approach to delivering on DACAW’s crosscutting themes amongst others by i) further strengthening child club management practices, ii) adopting a gender approach rather than focus on women only, iii) further strengthening local support bases for social inclusion. Specific suggestions follow.
- Child clubs should be linked more closely to the other community groups and organizations, especially the PLCs, and VDC/VCC. At the same time UNICEF should together with partners explore other ways of enhancing child and youth participation than just through the club model.
- UNICEF should make an effort to link with other child rights agencies including international and national NGOs, to have a coordinated and strategic approach to the development and support to child and youth clubs in Nepal.
- UNICEF should collaborate with and support the Central and District Child Welfare Boards (CCWB and DCWBs) to strengthen the Village Child Protection Committees (VPCPs). This should be coordinated with other child rights agencies.
- DACAW should promote and support the linking of child and youth clubs as well as PLCs to the VCPCs.
- Ensure that child participation is consistently mainstreamed into DACAW’s CFLG programs and strengthen child participation in local and national level governance by strengthening coordination with other agencies through the Consortium of Organizations Working for Child Participation.
- Make further efforts to develop children’s leadership in Nepal by more exposure to development issues and concerns at district, national and international levels and supporting leadership training.
- The CFLG pilot is an innovative initiative which should be followed up by monitoring progress during the roll‐out phase with focus particularly on the development of progress indicators.
- Gender analysis and gender training should be more systematically applied in planning, monitoring and reporting in DACAW.
- Take into account new emerging information on the status of exclusion in Nepal, from communities which have different categories and criteria, as well as in the context of new emerging national information such as WFP’s Nepal Hunger Index 2009, and consider this information alongside the existing DAG mapping information where relevant.
- Ensure that phase‐out activities from 2010 onwards do not jeopardize DAG and MDAG communities, by either linking them up with other development programs in these districts or considering a more gradual phase‐out of UNICEF support in the most needy areas.
- Strengthen national information systems in Nepal in order to ensure that they are increasingly disaggregated by gender, age, caste and ethnicity and make further efforts to encourage the use of the information that already exists.
- Further promote DACAW’s efforts on documentation and communications, particularly in the local languages of Nepal as a powerful means of influencing public opinion in favor of child rights.
DACAW Operational Structure and Programming
- It is recommended to undertake an analysis of the participatory training and planning that is being done in DACAW in order to find out how it is functioning and identify possible gaps and deficiencies. This should include how the needs and priorities of the community groups are followed through at the different levels of planning.
- DACAW reports on an impressive amount of results at the output level, although much less on the more long‐term results. DACAW should include in its results matrix more reporting on outcome and establish regular reporting on impact. The reports should also include more comprehensive risk and problem analysis. “Before‐after” reporting by target groups could be further highlighted in the future.
- There is a need for DACAW to push for Government to fully integrate planning and reporting for DACAW into the Government system. The LGCDP presents an opportunity in this respect.
- At the central level more needs to be done to link DACAW in a systematic manner to the sector programs. UNICEF may consider developing a simple guideline for this purpose. In this connection a review of the internal lines of reporting and communication should be reviewed.
- In the case of DACAW the district is the strategic level for program implementation and Government partnerships. UNICEF should therefore focus and prioritize subnational presence at the district level in terms of staffing and budget allocation.
- In the new districts in the far‐western region greater amount of time and effort will need to be spent on group formation, building the capacity of community groups, VDC and women’ federation. Additional human and financial resources should be allocated.
- UNICEF should lobby Government at central level to provide incentives and benefits to Government staff in these far‐western districts in order to have qualified staff on a year‐round basis.
- While flows of funds through DDC/DDF is a preferred mechanism that complies with the spirit of the Local Self Governance Act, an alternate mechanism for fund disbursement must be built into the system as a back‐up.
- Since the level of physical infrastructure is relatively low in the far‐western districts compared to the others, resources should be set aside for hardware and material support in those areas.
- There should be more consistent involvement of beneficiary groups and NGO partners in the process of phasing out and handing over DACAW activities, as well as phasing into new districts. In all cases district NGOs should be considered supported, but national NGOs should also be engaged if there are none available at district level.
- Although work has been put into planning phase‐out and hand‐over there are still a number of unclear aspects. DACAW needs to make decisions about which activities are going to be kept in which VDCs, and make a time‐line for the different stages of the phase‐out.
- UNICEF should make an effort to increase donor coordination in relation to achieving results for children.
- In order to gain knowledge about sustainability of results, it is recommended to plan for the next phase of DACAW a study of the sustainability in the 5 districts that are being phased out.
Aligning with LGCDP
- Given the fact that DACAW is an approach that needs to be followed for an indefinite period of time and extended to all parts of the country in due course of time, it is prudent to mainstream DACAW activities into LGCDP in those districts where DACAW program has been up and running for at least 5 years.
- UNICEF/DACAW program should focus on those areas such as mid and far west where LGCDP, because of its compulsion to cover across the country but thinly, might not be able to enter in big and concerted way.
- UNICEF has been able to influence the design of LGCDP and thereby introduce indicators relevant to DACAW in the LGCDP log‐framework. This work should be followed up as LGCDP continues to develop.
- Similarly, UNICEF has been able to influence the VDC Block Grant guidelines and to ensure that a fixed portion of block grants be allocated to the activities relating to children and women. UNICEF should follow up on the implementation of the guidelines to ensure that the allocations to women and children happen as intended.
- Based on the DACAW experience UNICEF should provide technical assistance to the Government on sector convergence in the process of developing LGCDP.
- UNICEF should encourage donors in Nepal to apply a uniform definition of DAG groups with the framework of LGCDP.
- In aligning with LGCDP UNICEF needs to ensure that emphasis is kept on the value added of DACAW, namely mainstreaming CAP, keeping children in focus, empowering women and reaching the most disadvantaged communities.
- The CAP process should be mainstreamed to the extent possible within LGCDP. How exactly transition and mainstreaming ought to be done should be dealt with in‐depth. For this purpose a ‘DACAW‐LGCDP transition design’ should be considered developed and conducted for the phase‐out districts.
Full report in PDF
PDF files require Acrobat Reader.