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UNICEF launches studies on the decentralization process, situation of children and child participation in the Maldives

By Shadiya Adam

MALE’, 19 December, 2013 — UNICEF Maldives has launched three studies, which look at issues creating disparities amongst Maldivian children.

The studies provide figures and data examining social issues, existing disparities and quality of services that affect children in various regions across the Maldives. The studies were launched jointly by the Minister of Health and Gender, Dr. Mariyam Shakeela and the UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia, Ms. Karin Hulshof.

UNICEF Representative to the Maldives, Ms. Zeba Bukhari welcomed the participants on behalf of the Maldives Country Office. Introducing the three publications, she underlined the cross cutting nature of findings showing how children's issues are a shared responsibility of multiple partners

Speaking at the event, both the Minister and the Regional Director emphasised on the importance of reliable and timely data to enable meaningful interventions to improve the lives of children.

All three studies draw largely from existing literature and data, complemented by feedback from national academics, Government and other relevant representatives through consultations and focus group discussions. The studies have further identified a need to generate primary data, better monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, implementation of policies and legislation and improvement of quality of services for children.

Among the main findings of the studies are:

The Decentralization Process:

  • Both the preventative and intervention side of malnutrition need to be equally well-addressed. Health policies and existing strategies on nutrition must be amended to explicitly mandate the Ministry of Health to implement programmes.
  • Pre-schooling must be seen as distinctive from schooling. It is widely recognised in the literature on early childhood development that the aim of pre-schooling should be to prepare children to learn, and that this is best achieved through an active play approach.
  • Despite high levels of unemployment and a very large expatriate workforce, there are capacity shortages across all sectors in the Maldives. Each Ministry should conduct skills audits so that skills development strategies are properly informed and addressed.

The Situation of Children: An Equity Perspective

  • Important health and education related indicators demonstrate improvement at national level. However disparities at sub-national level remain and are significant in certain domains.
  • While disparities are not found in most instances between boys and girls, clear disparities patterns are found between regions.
  • North Central region has the lowest levels of health-related achievements compared to the rest of the regions which include; lowest skilled attendance at delivery, lowest seeking medical assistance at fever episodes, highest under-nutrition.
  • South region has comparatively more child-protection related concerns that include: lowest proportion of registered births, highest proportion of working children, highest teenage child-bearing rate, and second largest proportion of orphans with all concerns around their development

Child Participation:

  • There are very few policy and legislative mechanisms that formally require children’s participation in decisions that affect their lives.
  • There are certain areas, particularly within informal structures such as family, where children are happy about the level of participatory opportunities. However, the study also reveals that lack of awareness and knowledge of the importance of children’s participation is most marked among professionals such as teachers, coaches, and other such figures who are expected to know most about the rights of children
  • Insufficient knowledge exists among the general Maldivian public as well as among decision-makers at the national level of the rationale and thinking behind the UNCRC and the rights of participation that it provides to children

For further information please contact:

Shadiya Adam, Communication for Development Officer, UNICEF Maldives, Tel: 334-3353 Mobile: 790 5580, E-mail:



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