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In Maldives, community involvement and the government play a critical role in addressing the needs of islanders

© UNICEF Maldives/2012/Madhok
An enumerator asks Fainana Mohammad, 49, questions, as part of a household survey that uses the Community-Based Monitoring System (CBMS) model. Maldivians like Fainana have seen the winds of change blow over their islands in their lifetimes - bringing essential services that were once impossible to imagine.

By Rajat Madhok

Maldives, 22 October 2012 - When Fainana Mohammad was 16 years old, she was married to a man in his fifties. Over the next four years, Fainana gave birth to four children.

Then, her husband abandoned her for a younger woman. Illiterate and with no marketable skills, Fainana swept the streets to survive. She earned too little to feed her children three square meals per day.

Fainana remarried and had four more children. Then, her second husband passed away, leaving her with eight children and hardly any income. On days when there was no food at home, she would beg the neighbours for leftovers and feed her children whatever she could manage.

Reaching out to vulnerable people

Since she was first married more than 30 years ago, Fainana has seen a wind of change blow across her island. Today, an equipped hospital, a higher secondary and primary school for children, shops for essential items – and food – are all available.

Over the years, Maldives has equipped its islands, some far flung, with basic facilities and services. A critical component to providing even basic services has been community involvement at the grassroots level. Community leaders and Women Development Committees have played a crucial role in addressing the needs of islanders – especially more vulnerable groups, such as women, the elderly and young girls.

Now, the community will again play a critical role. For the first time, with support from the Government and the local Women Development Committee, UNICEF, in collaboration with the Partnership for Economic Policy and its partner the Australian Agency for International Development, has introduced a household survey. The survey aims to identity multiple dimensions of poverty and vulnerability using the Community-Based Monitoring System (CBMS) model.

© UNICEF Maldives/2012/Madhok
Local youth are trained as enumerators for the survey that uses the CBMS model. The youth will then return to their community and gather information that will be processed by professionals and shared with policy-makers.

CBMS is an organized way of collecting information at the local level for use of local government units, national government agencies, non-government organizations, and civil society for planning, programme implementation and monitoring.

This pilot survey is being carried out on an island near Malé by young surveyors who go to each house and gather information on such key indicators as health, sanitation, hygiene, education, food security, crime and protection, income and waste management.

Once the data have been gathered, a team of professionals will evaluate and analyse the information and generate concrete analysis of the situation, including bottlenecks and recommendations.

These important data will then be fed into the wheels of policy-making and the shaping of legislation at the national level, with policy-makers incorporating recommendations from the survey.

The CBMS model ensures local government transparency, accountability and – of critical importance – includes community participation and representation in policy-making.

Educating future policy-makers

To enhance the capacity of policy developers further, Maldives National University, in collaboration with UNICEF and other partners, has introduced a one-of-a-kind master’s degree in social policy. This postgraduate course will help develop a critical mass of technical people specialized in understanding the issues, concepts, and theoretical and operational processes involved in evidence-based design and implementation of policy, with a specific focus on policy for children, women, the elderly and other vulnerable populations.

“We are delighted to start this journey for the development of a master’s degree course in social policy, in partnership with the MNU…We commit our support to provide the best possible technical expertise for the formulation of a course,” says Representative of UNICEF Maldives Zeba Tanvir Bukari. “The issues of children will be kept at the forefront to make sure that the future of the country is considered while we formulate policies within our current plans.” 

An enabling environment

Fainana receives a single parent allowance from the Government of 2,000 Rufiya (US$130), and her children go to the local government school, a luxury neither she nor her siblings enjoyed.

In spite of facing hardships for most of her life, Fainana is confident of better days ahead. Her children lead a life that she could only have dreamed of.

And the Government continues to partner with the international community and local communities in order to give Fainana and her children a fighting chance.



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