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National stakeholders come together to design a Child Protection System in Myanmar

by Thanda Kyaw and Yin Yin Han, with contributions from Vimala Crispin

November 2020

The Child Frontiers team consulted with mothers, fathers, youth and local authorities to inform the system policy design and ensure local perspectives and priorities are reflected.

Over the past decade, Child Frontiers has collaborated with governments in South East Asia, the Pacific Islands, Africa and the Middle East to facilitate the drafting of national child welfare and protection policies and strategies. We have seen a tendency of government departments to request international consulting agencies to work relatively independently to produce a first draft policy or strategy, sometimes with government staff only becoming involved when a document is ready for review and consultation. 

In 2019, Child Frontiers was requested to support the development of a national child protection policy in Myanmar. Led by the Department of Social Welfare (Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement), and supported by UNICEF Myanmar, the purpose of the policy was to establish a single, systemic, national vision for child protection and welfare in Myanmar.

In early discussions, the Department of Social Welfare and Child Frontiers agreed that they would work closely together at all stages of policy drafting.  In this way, we have been able to craft a policy that is fit for the diverse Myanmar social and cultural context, and practical enough to guarantee that its commitments are achievable and commensurate with existing resources.

Through a series of discussions between the Department of Social Welfare, UNICEF and Child Frontiers, we agreed to:

 

  • Generate evidence on community-level dynamics to inform the scope and content of the policy. Consultations were conducted with children, families, communities and service providers in townships and villages in Ayeyarwaddy, Shan, Kachin, and Rakhine states.

 

  • Work collaboratively – from the start – with a technical drafting group comprised of DSW technical staff, representatives of the National Committee on the Rights of the Child and UN colleagues.  Through a series of facilitated workshops, this group has grappled with essential policy options such as: ‘How do we define ‘shared responsibility’ for child welfare? What are the role and responsibilities of families and communities in the child protection system? How can we strengthen the relationship and engagement between local authorities and different service providers?

  • Establish a wider technical working group comprising representatives from many other relevant government sectors. Following the official launch by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, this high-level working group has continuously reviewed the consultation findings, provided sectoral input to the draft, and will validate the final policy. 

 

  • Co-draft the national child protection policy, from the zero-draft to the final iteration.  This new way of collaboratively working together in Myanmar has helped ensure that the policy is cohesive and, we hope, achievable.

Yin Yin Han (L) and Thanda Kyaw (R)

As the drafting of the policy comes to an end, we hear from our national colleagues and counterparts that the process has been a valuable sharing and learning experience. They cite the following reasons for the success of the process:

  • It was very worthwhile to invest the time, at the outset of the process, to thoroughly explore and obtain approval for the proposed methodology and approach from government leadership.  This initial dialogue took time but ultimately meant that all parties were working with a common purpose and able to advocate for and justify this new, more dynamic approach to policy development. With a clear understanding of the rationale for this approach, officers felt more at ease and understood that their full and continuing engagement was required.

 

  • Committing the resources to conduct consultations with potential beneficiaries of the policy, including in remote areas, contributed significantly to the contextualization of the policy principles. The opinions, experiences and priorities of children and families became central to the policy choices.

 

  • Dedicated leadership and day-to-day involvement of the Department of Social Welfare in writing the policy has created a strong sense of ownership among those with responsibilities for ensuring the policy measures are achieved.

 

  • National consultants facilitated the policy drafting process in their own language. By building in intensive preparatory discussions with the international specialists, the Myanmar consultants were confident to assume responsibility for facilitating the policy design workshops.

 

Midway through the policy development process, Myanmar – like many countries in our region – was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, the Department of Social Welfare and the national working group reaffirmed their determination to find creative solutions to continue the policy development process despite the sudden freeze on international travel and inability to meet in person. The team rapidly established a teleconferencing set-up that allowed consultation workshops to continue with involvement from members in Naypyidaw, Yangon, Bangkok and Victoria BC. 

 

The team looks forward to presenting the draft Child Protection  Policy to high-level national policymakers for input and validation.  After years of working in the child protection sector in Myanmar, our team sincerely hopes that this unique policy will open the door for a new approach that is sustainable, realistic and in line with the priorities, expectations and needs of families and children.

As the rights of the child is the most fundamental part of the human rights treaty, the current national child protection policy is the first of its kind for the protection and development of all children in Myanmar in a safe and protective environment, as well as for the full development and protection of the individual child. Therefore, it differs from other policy development processes in Myanmar.

Dr. San San Aye

Director General, Department of Social Welfare

Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement

Myanmar Policy Development Process

Literature review conducted to assess:

  • The current status of the Myanmar Child protection

  • Myanmar’s global commitments to protect children

  • The regional child protection context

  • Links with SDG, national policies, other strategies related to children

 

Situational Analysis:

  • Conducted in six townships nationwide

  • Analysis of evidence on the current Myanmar child protection context

  • Consultations with local authorities, service providers, parents & children

Policy Design process:

  • Analysis of evidence with national team to identify challenges, opportunities & policy design options

  • Incremental policy development and review process  

  • Collective analysis of the applicability of the policy

  • Presentation of draft policy to high level policymakers for input & validation

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