SWA task force: a conversation starter around systems strengthening in Malawi

By Kate Alinafe Harawa, Board Chairperson, WESNET

2 May, 2019 in

2018 was a year when Malawi made modest efforts to go beyond just discussing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to finally implementing them. We, at Water and Environmental Sanitation Network (WESNET) believe the evidence for that stems from how the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) partnership is pushing for a conversation around strengthening the sector systems for regulation, government-led planning, accountability mechanisms, sustainable financing, and harmonising sector Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) systems.

At WESNET, an umbrella network for WASH CSOs in Malawi, we recognize how critical water and sanitation is for poverty reduction and the overall economic development in the country. To pursue our objectives, WESNET pushes for:

  • Improved awareness and integration of the SWA framework within existing water, sanitation and hygiene structures and processes
  • Strengthen accountability of development partners so that they could fulfil their commitments to the sector

 

With the support of SWA, WESNET has provided a leadership role in the Joint Sector Review (JSR) to introduce and push for the integration of the SWA Mutual Accountability Mechanism (MAM) in the Joint Sector Reviews (JSRs) processes and outcomes. JSR is a government-led national accountability process, wherein different stakeholders come together to review and monitor sector expenditure, progress, and performance. In Malawi, there has been a dedicated effort on improving the JSR processes through a review. Various organisations have taken part in discussing the way forward to improve how our sector collects, manages, and shares M&E information. Even the theme of 2018 Joint Sector Review, “Accelerating Attainment of SDGs through Sector Accountability”, was reflective of how it’s not ‘business as usual’ but an attempt to tackle the key bottlenecks differently. WESNET believes that without addressing the issue of accountability- both at the level of Government and civil society, it would be difficult to reach water, sanitation and hygiene-related goals of the SDGs.

 

WESNET has been actively involved in revamping the ‘Policy and Advocacy’ and ‘Research and Knowledge Exchange’ Thematic Working Groups (TWG), and additionally, managed to hold a number of regional coordination meetings. The network facilitated Government’s TWG meetings to implement the JSR undertakings for 2017. The progress made on this was shared at the December 2018 JSR. WESNET has been indicated as one of the organizations responsible for implementing some of the 2018-2019 undertakings.

 

To organise and coordinate the efforts of WASH NGOs in the country, we have adopted SWA framework within WESNET too. The network has championed review of the CSO data collection tool to incorporate SWA Building blocks and collaborative behaviours. The results of which were published in the 2018 Malawi Performance Report for WASH Civil Society Organizations. It is with the SWA collaborative behaviours in mind that WESNET asked the organisations to characterize practices that indicate whether they are contributing to systems strengthening or if CSOs are simply operating parallel to the government and other country systems.

WESNET is also raising awareness of the SWA framework amongst key development partners, including high-level government officials, district level officials and other CSOs. We made the presentations at the regional WESNET chapters, donor partner meetings, District Wide Approach Workshop (organized by Water for People), and at Red Cross Data Ecosystems on SDGs.

All of these are just examples of how the mindset of our sector is slowly shifting away from simply discussing and implementing WASH projects to moving towards the future of sustainable service delivery. Never before have we been as committed to working together with the government, and in return government with us. To build on these efforts, WESNET actively participated in the multi-stakeholder preparatory process for the 2019 Sector Ministers’ Meeting. If 2018 was the year to change the mindsets in Malawi, this year should  be the year to take action.