Child Empowerment Agency, a new way to deal with child protection

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Improving the living conditions of the children in Nepal is such a daunting task that what we need is a new approach, a bold, novel way to deal with all the underlying factors that cause child poverty, child insecurity, child deprivation and obviously child abuse.

Ensuring a deep understanding of such complexity, bridging the “work as usual” fragmentation with its multiple overlapping is the real challenge ahead.

With so many agencies and ministries involved, ensuring coordination and effective partnerships to boost the wellbeing of all Nepalese children becomes almost an insurmountable challenge.

After all the business as usual model also reflects the way of doing politics in the country. For any policy issue, just look at any strategy paper officially approved by the Government, you will surely find an ad-hoc committee in charge of the decision making. At the local level it is the same or even worse and it is an irony that we have formulated TORs for so many of these committees whose members are all the same persons. All this should drastically change.

Once we agree that child protection must be worked out through an “omnibus” approach then we need to scratch our head and think from a management point of view.

If the overall goal would be to ensure wellbeing, serenity and prosperity for all the children of the country, there are a few questions, we should ask ourselves: how can we overhaul and reset the entire child protection mechanism? How could Nepal effectively mobilize resources in an area of such need? How can we effectively empower local bodies that theoretically are responsible for the implementation of child friendly local governance?

Could a completely new body that, entrusted with adequate resources and a powerful mandate, answer the above questions and finish the job? What about calling it the Child Empowerment Agency?

Here I am referring to a new semi public organization that directly responds to the Prime Minister (note that the National Planning Commission, following Modi-mania, is waiting for a drastic overhaul).

The new entity would work with great independence and considerable power. At its top we need a real leader possibly someone who knows the system but at the same time is out of it. S/he will act as a real C.E.O with considerable decision making authority accompanied by a high degree of accountability that comes when the right check and balance mechanisms are in place.

A board of governors with Secretaries of all concerned ministries would supervise the work of the Agency. The Prime Minister would be its Chair. National and International NGOs should have representatives in a sort of consultative advisory board to be  created for the purpose.

The CEO would lead a comprehensive effort with teams of experts from different sectors from education, health, nutrition and all other core areas related to child protection. The staff will be drawn from government, private and civil society sectors. Special arrangements would allow the Agency to “borrow” the best minds from other agencies, including donors. Experts in communication, PR would ensure a strong campaigning dimension of the Agency. Retired senior officers with outstanding track records could be recalled.

The Agency with its strong mandate would be able to ensure a cross cutting working approach, capable of reaching out to multiple stakeholders while ensuring strong coordination among different ministries.

We should not be too much concerned about the obvious resistance coming from the existing structures that will object to any downsizing of their responsibilities.  If the new body does not produce the expected achievements, again we would be back to business as usual.

A less ambitious but possibly more realistic alternative would be the creation of a special department or unit within the Ministry of Women, Children and Welfare. This unit would be in charge of leading a National Child Protection Mission. Looking at the experience of the Social Welfare Council or Literacy Campaign, I doubt this option will work.

The Child Empowerment Agency would be in charge of finalizing and, importantly, harmonizing and probably merging all the existing master plans and policies related to child welfare while those with no added value should be simply scrapped. In terms of implementation, the Agency would have a strong authority with a mix of direct implementation and outsourcing power to other ministries or NGOs. Surely the M&E department will have to devise the best metrics and methodologies to track down the failures and the achievements.

One of its first tasks would be to look at the National Master Plan against Child Labor and make sure that it is endorsed by the Cabinet with no further delay.

Child wellbeing is a real emergency. Emergencies need bold interventions in order to be effective, require “out of the box” resolutions. Strong political will could easily get fast track legislation approved and make the Child Empowerment Agency a reality.


Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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