The government of Malawi, through the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, launched NGO and social welfare policies in Malawi’s Capital Lilongwe on Friday with the hope of ushering an era of sanity into the country’s NGO and social welfare sectors.
The NGO Policy dominated the ceremony, attracting prompt reaction from the NGO fraternity considering the influential role NGOs play in the country and their mostly cat and mouse relationship with the government.
Among other things, the policy has come forth to coordinate and regulate the activities of NGOs so that there is sharing of information, transparency and accountability and no duplication of roles.
Chairperson for International NGOs Forum Ulemu Chiluzi welcomed the policy, describing it as an important tool for making a vibrant NGO sector that truly responds to the needs of the people.
He said, “This is a good development because we cannot be operating anyhow. However, the policy should not shrink the space for NGOs and become a source of bickering between NGOs and government”.
In his remarks, Chairperson for Council for Non-governmental Organisations in Malawi (CONGOMA), Steve Duwa, concurred with Chiluzi and called for full implementation of the policy.
“All relevant stakeholders must be involved in the implementation of the policy. The government being the policy holder must always follow up to ensure that implementation is being done as stipulated, that relevant stakeholders are really being involved at every level of implementation and playing their rightful roles,” he said.
Added Duwa: “Through the implementation of this policy, we want to see our working relationship with government improving and establishment of more partnerships between local and International NGOs for the benefit of the people we serve”.
Officials from the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare say the process for developing the NGO Policy span nearly two decades and involved the NGO Board and many other relevant stakeholders in the NGO sector.
Apparently, Malawi is still using a law enacted either in the year 2000 or 2001 to regulate the ever increasing NGO constituency in the country, a move which is considered as backward in view of the many new developments that have taken place over the years.
Taking her turn, Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Cecilia Chazama, noted that the NGO Policy, in the meantime, provides the right direction Malawi should take in regulating its NGO sector.
“Let us support this policy. It is not stifling NGOs but rather improving their working relationships with other stakeholders in order to implement their interventions effectively,” she said.
Turning to the Social Welfare Policy, Chazama said the document is the first of its kind in Malawi and focuses on promoting people centred service delivery to reduce the suffering especially of vulnerable groups of people in Malawi.
According to Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare officials, the absence of a Social Welfare Policy over the years resulted to inadequate resource allocation to social welfare, no regulation for social service and fragmented service delivery.