Responding to the needs of children and their communities
The Child-Friendly, Inclusive and Resilient Communities pillar is an integrated approach supporting children to grow, thrive, and realize their rights in an enabling environment. The pillar interventions cut across all sectors and selected change strategies.
Violence against children is a gross violation of children’s rights. It is a cross-cutting issue through all layers of society and social groups. It can take the form of physical abuse, sexual abuse, harassment, rape or sexual exploitation in prostitution or pornography. It can happen in homes, institutions, schools, workplaces, in travel, and within communities.
Sadly, rates of violence against children in Malawi are high, from their earliest years into adolescence. This has a devastating effect, not only on children themselves but on the community and the country. Almost half of the girls in Malawi marry before the age of 18 – this is one of the highest rates of child marriage anywhere in the world.
There are also thousands of children living in institutional care such as orphanages, despite having at least one living parent. There is a large body of evidence which documents the negative and irreversible.
Interventions will be implemented across the country, building on existing decentralized delivery platforms such as schools, communities, and health centres among others. While some strategic interventions will be on a large scale, UNICEF Malawi will predominantly concentrate on the convergence and integration of strategic interventions around interrelated pillars in a core set of districts, identified through evidence-based selection criteria.
In line with the Government of Malawi’s increased focus on decentralization in the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS-III), UNICEF Malawi will contribute to supporting decentralized structures at district and sub-district levels to respond to the strategic and practical needs of children and their communities. At the same time, UNICEF Malawi will support policy work to strengthen government capacity for effective policy implementation, standards-setting, evidence-based planning, budgeting, and development of robust service delivery institutional frameworks. Delivery platforms to reach households and communities will be coordinated by district councils under the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.
To protect every child in Malawi, changes are required across the ‘socio-ecological framework’. UNICEF works at the institutional level to help create an enabling environment (laws, policies, and coordination mechanisms) that safeguard child rights. At the community level, UNICEF supports the delivery of quality child protection services. At the individual and close-relationship level, UNICEF works to foster behaviours and practices that support child wellbeing and protection. In the new country programme, UNICEF will focus on making sure communities are able to do the following:
Output 1: Communities are able to practice positive social behaviours in the best interest of the child and demand the delivery of quality and resilient, child-friendly services.
Substantial investment is required to end harmful social norms and help end the silence around traditional practices that negatively impact children. UNICEF Malawi will address these issues as a matter of priority by implementing programmes to help achieve positive social and behavioural change in the lives of children at the household and community level. Programmes will utilize behaviour and social change communication strategies and facilitate community engagement and empowerment in support of positive behaviours that address key issues impacting children, such as child marriage.
Output 2: Communities are able to hold duty bearers accountable for the delivery of quality and resilient, child-friendly services.
UNICEF is supporting the review and analysis of spending for child-focused sectors, in terms of size and composition, and public dissemination of budgets. The aim is to foster social accountability and transparency of public financial management processes at both national and district levels and make local government budgets and systems work better for children. UNICEF Malawi will help strengthen community voices and engagement with local governments using social accountability tools and platforms, such as Bwalo, that also educate communities and improve their capacity to question the availability and quality of services and demand better. Combining these efforts with readily accessible information on which services are available will enable communities to hold duty bearers accountable.
Output 3: Households and communities prepare for and are resilient to climate change and economic shocks, and are supported to overcome chronic vulnerabilities that affect children
Resilience to shock and climate change at household and community levels will be facilitated by enhancing coherence and connectivity between major humanitarian interventions and longer-term programming, including risk-informed programme design, preparedness, needs assessment, and response.
Output 4. Government and local authorities are supported to operationalize key policies and legal
frameworks and develop plans and budgets for strengthened and coordinated social sectors’ response to address disparities and deprivations
The country programme will focus on strengthening the decentralization process. By design, the MGDS-III is pushing for the devolution of all social services to local authorities. Large scale national programmes which have demonstrated impact will also be closely linked and implemented through decentralized structures. UNICEF’s comparative advantage to work across sectors will support this process to encourage multi-sectoral approaches, promote greater service efficiency in under-resourced districts.
Local-level coordination mechanisms are in place but suffer from both technical and financial constraints. Supporting decentralized structures, as well as formal and informal feedback mechanisms, improves the flow of information and monitoring the delivery of social services. This gives district authorities useful feedback on the quality of services. In addition, the provision of real-time frontline data and its integration and use by national information management systems will be improved so that local and national level decision-making is informed by timely data. Integration and inter-operability of decision-making support systems will be further strengthened through district-level information systems through a coordinated UN response.