Absence of a stand-alone ministry of children and district child offices in Malawi, are some of the “worrying” issues in a civil society organizations (CSOs) alternative report to be submitted to the African Union (AU) committee of experts ...
Absence of a stand-alone ministry of children and district child offices in Malawi, are some of the “worrying” issues in a civil society organizations (CSOs) alternative report to be submitted to the African Union (AU) committee of experts on the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC).
The CSO leaders to the meeting pose for a group photo
The report, which will be presented in 2021, is being prepared by some Malawian CSOs led by the NGO Coalition on Child Rights (NGO-CCR).
The alternative report–also known as a shadow report–is a CSOs indication of “what really is the situation on the ground” as compared to the Malawi Government opinion in its own state party report to the AU committee of experts on ACRWC.
CSOs converged in the Capital Lilongwe to validate contents of their report in a meeting which received financial support from Save the Children.
Speaking in an interview with Nyasa Times after having officially opened the validation meeting, NGO-CCR Chairperson, Desmond Mhango, disclosed that the report also encompasses, among other issues, rising cases of defilment and child marriages and pregnancies that have particularly surged during the Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) crisis.
“In the report, we are laying bare a number of issues affecting children and are examining why these continue to surge. Is it, in part, because of insufficient and efficient legislation for child affairs or weaker enforcement of available laws and policies or complacency of the state and the citizenry,” said Mhango.
Mhango added that the alternative report, among other progressive steps, highlights the need for the department of child affairs at Capital Hill to decentralize its operations to districts where issues of children really are, saying this would enhance efforts to address the challenges children face.
“In fact, the current assumption that children affairs could be handled through a department in the larger Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, is an omission which is not conforming to the set fundamental principles of the welfare of the child.
“The government needs to establish a fully fledged ministry of children which should most importantly promote the protection, education, empowerment and participation of children,” he said.
Malawi is supposed to be submitting its state party report to the AU committee of experts on ACRWC after every two years and the last time the country presented such a report, was in April, 2018.
According to Mhango, it is important for Malawi to be making such reports because the country committed that it will comply with the standards set out in the ACRWC.
“So, reporting back to the committee of experts of the charter indicates how progressively the country is helping to realize the rights of the children,” said Mhango.
Taking his turn, Director of the Department of Child Affairs, McKnight Kalanda, who confirmed that government is currently preparing its own state party report to be submitted in 2021, asked the CSOs to collaborate in coming up with credible data for the alternative report.
“These reports, as an accountability mechanism, must report on the positives and gaps and then make implementable recommendations. So the collection of correct and credible data is very important. This task is easier if the CSOs collaborate among themselves and with my office,” said Kalanda.
And in his remarks, Senior Strategic Advisor on Child Rights at Save the Children, Stanley Phiri, concurred with Mhango and Kalanda, adding that efforts must be made to give children themselves a platform for awareness, knowledge gathering and participation.