Internal defects such as poor enforcement of mandate have slowed down Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare operations which are critical to ensuring gender parity and that women, men, girls and boys participate in the national development process equally, Weekend Nation has learnt.
The defects, which also include weak organisational structures and systems, weak enforcement mechanisms for policy directives and the ministry’s management failure to provide technical advice to policy makers and implementers, are among the issues raised in the paper for development of institutional policy and strategic plan for the ministry.
“The ministry faces challenges with supervision, follow ups, coordination and resource allocation. There is poor and negative image of the ministry. [There are] low levels of comprehensive knowledge of the ministry’s mandate.
“Actions by the ministry, Parliament and government on gender, children and social welfare are not in line with international and regional commitments and declarations signed by government of Malawi, for example, passing of marriage age at 16 in Parliament,” reads the issues paper in part.
It also identifies external pressure on some ministry’s programmes and decisions as among issues that are affecting progress on the operations of the ministry.
“The role of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare is being taken over by partners, for example, NGOs and other external service providers. The structure to implement gender is weak.
“The ministry is top heavy with five departments versus one at the district level. The ministry is creating lots of departments at national level without strengthening financial capability, human resources in districts and communities,” adds the issues paper released on Monday.
The ministry, whose mandate includes promoting gender equality in the country, has not fully embraced the same gender concept within its structures, according to the issues paper.
“There are gender imbalances in the ministry with male dominated management and technical team and female dominated sector management level,” says the paper.
Dealing with donors on implementation of programmes is another major challenge the Gender Ministry is facing with some partnerships said to have been based on personal relations.
“There is need to provide leadership in donor coordination and foster country ownership,” reads the paper which proposes establishment of the special donor group on issues of gender, children and social welfare.
The paper also urges the ministry to improve the morale and professionalism of its staff through staff development training and promotions, among others.
“It was generally noted that the ministry has not been efficient in coordinating programmes within the ministry departments, between the ministry and other sectors, between the central and district offices, and with its stakeholders,” reads the document.
In an interview, Principal Secretary for Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare Dr. Mary Shawa said they have been facing challenges to effectively coordinate their operations because of lack of an overall policy for the ministry.
She said they are currently developing the ministry’s overall policy and strategic plan with support from the USaid-funded Health Policy Project (HPP), hencethey have been consulting several stakeholders including grass roots structures in the process.
“We have a policy for gender and a policy for children but there are no policies for social welfare and community development. There was an overall focus but focus in these specific areas was not there.
“As a result, some of the work in these areas has suffered. We have had some of our frontline staff not knowing what to do or understanding what they were doing,” said Shawa.