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Giving Bolivia’s children a healthy start in life

Thousands of children in Bolivia are getting a healthy start in life as a result of Plan International's early childhood development programmes, which have been scaled up to reach 557 communities across the country.

Father with his baby, Bolivia
Fathers are now increasingly getting involved in caring for their children

Plan International started implementing comprehensive, multi-sectoral early childhood development (ECD) programming in Bolivia over a decade ago, after recognising the low percentage of children on track in terms of their development.

Our ECD programmes include group parenting education; home visits by trained community volunteers; community managed play spaces; and collaboration with education authorities to increase access to quality pre-school education.

Starting in 70 communities in 7 municipalities, this integrated ECD model has since been systematically scaled up to now reach 557 communities in 25 municipalities.

Boosting knowledge and support

Project evaluations have demonstrated improved knowledge and application of key practices among participating families, a significant increase in the number of children attending ECD spaces/pre-schools, and significantly higher numbers of children who are developmentally on track, compared to children not reached by the project. 

“This project is good – you learn so much about child development and how important it is to look after your children. I’ve learnt how to look after my daughter so she’s grows up healthy,” says Ana Guadalupe, a 20-year-old mother.

I’ve learnt how to look after my daughter so she’s grows up healthy

Building on the project experiences, Plan International Bolivia has collaborated with the education authorities of 3 indigenous peoples to develop culturally relevant pre-school curricula in the local languages of Quechua, Chiquitano and Aymara.

The ECD guidelines and development assessment scale adapted by Plan International have now been adopted by the Ministry of Health for their community health workers.

Engaging men

We have also worked to build new elements into the programme – such as men’s engagement. Systematic efforts to engage men in ECD began after conducting a gender assessment (as part of a Plan International multi-country study), which showed that Bolivian men saw childcare and domestic chores as women’s responsibility.

The study also showed that parents valued girls less than boys, and that mothers and fathers were teaching girls and boys how they should behave and what they could expect to become as men and women.

As a result, the programme was adapted, with clubs set up for expectant mums and dads, and parenting education sessions run on positive masculinities, gender relations and domestic violence. Plan International also campaigned to promote father’s engagement based on the internationally recognised Mencare campaign.

Evaluations of the project show that it has achieved increased knowledge about ECD amongst fathers and increased participation in community ECD activities.