Malawi: President Laz Draws More Fire for Omitting 'Children' in Reconstituted Ministry

Barely a few days after settling a clash with the NGO Gender Coordination Network (NGOGCN) over the missing of the word 'gender' in the Ministry of Community Development and Social Welfare, President Lazarus Chakwera seems to have drawn another flame of fire for omitting 'children' in name of the reconstituted ministry.

This time, child focused non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Malawi have written Chakwera, demanding the creation of a standalone ministry to tackle children's affairs.

The concerned organisations, which are trading under the banner of NGO Coalition of Child Rights (NGOCCR) whose chairperson is Desmond Nyuma Mhango and Henry Machemba as its national coordinator, say they are concerned that the omission comes at a time when Malawians were expecting a fully-fledged Ministry of Child Development Affairs.

NGOCCR has therefore described failure by the Tonse Alliance administration to clearly define and demonstrate existence of children in the ministerial portfolios as the highest disregard by state leadership to promote the very fundamental principles and values of the rights of the child as conceived in the international and regional child rights instruments as well as the national legal and policy instruments.

"Various instruments require that Malawi, being a state party to the agreements, periodically reports to the global and regional enforcement Committees of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children (UNCRC) and the African Union (AU) African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), which places mandates on the civil society to equally submit Shadow or Alternative Reports in support of the State Party Reports.

"We, as NGO CCR express our utmost concern for the inconceivable omission of children in the announced package of ministerial portfolios. We are aware that previously children were acknowledged under the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare.

"The significance of integrating children in such a portfolio is that it allows government to sustain the prominence of children in its developmental and policy endeavours. This understanding is apparent that this appears not to be the case in your constituted Cabinet. As we write, it is not clear which ministry is responsible for child affairs which may dangerously be the case for years to come," observes the coalition in the letter dated July 18 2020.

Mhango and Machemba have signed the letter alongside their executive members who include Benedicto Kondowe, Linda Harawa, Robert Mkwezalamba, Leon Matanda, George Jobe, Mike Banda and Alice Bwanausi.

They say as a network that works to contribute to promotion and protection of the human rights and welfare of children in Malawi, they are of the opinion that a strategic ministry is so central in formulating policies for children as well as in contributing towards the living of the Constitution that the President under section 88 (1) is obliged to defend and uphold.

However, NGOCCR recognizes that domestically, the Constitution of Malawi provides for rights of children in Chapter IV, section 23, and similar recognition appears in Chapter III of the same Constitution.

The coalition also appreciates the confirmed commitment of the state of the Republic of Malawi in its adoption of the global, regional and sub-regional child rights instruments as it appears in the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi, and the Case Law, and further as is provided in the Child Care Protection and Justice Act of 2010.

"But a number of policy instruments have resultantly been put in place by our government with objective intent to comply to the statutes and key to these policies is the National Children' Policy of 2019. We, as NGO CCR, express our utmost concern for the inconceivable omission of children in the announced package of ministerial portfolios.

"We are aware that previously children were acknowledged under the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare. The significance of integrating Children in such a portfolio is that it allows government to sustain the prominence of children in its developmental and policy endeavours. This understanding is apparent that this appears not to be the case in your constituted Cabinet. As we write, it is not clear which ministry is responsible for child affairs which may dangerously be the case for years to come," they say.

"Against the above backdrop, we wish to remind government that children form the largest constituency of the national population. Children are the most vulnerable persons in Malawi to all forms of risks, of actions and inaction that have historically left children devastated by tales of abuse, violence and neglect. Both our Constitution and the Child Care Protection and Justice Act make a mandatory call that the best interests and welfare of children should be a primary consideration in all decisions affecting them which by extension, it would include the decision to constitute a ministerial portfolio," emphasizes the letter from NGOCCR," adds the letter.

But the Minister of the reconstituted Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare portfolio, Patricia Kaliati, has stressed that her ministry will continue taking all responsibilities over the children as it has been the case over the years.

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