Over 200 million children aged under 5 in low and middle-income countries are not developing to their full potential due to poor health, malnutrition, lack of access to early learning opportunities and exposure to violence.
Loving and responsive care; opportunities to communicate, play and interact with the world; and protection offered by parents and other caregivers are the most important predictors of whether a child will develop and thrive in the early years. This in turn determines their well-being, mental and physical health, learning and academic achievement, and social and economic participation for the rest of their life.
Plan International’s culturally sensitive, comprehensive parenting programmes promote not only key practices for health and nutrition, but also build on what parents know to strengthen their capacities to provide responsive, loving care; early stimulation; and to parent ‘positively’ using non-violent discipline.
In many countries we work to promote men’s meaningful engagement in childrearing, domestic chores and maternal wellbeing – as well as women’s empowerment and equal participation in household decision-making.
Our work supports Sustainable Development Goal targets 4.2 and 16.2 that focus on ensuring that children receive the care, education and protection from violence and abuse that they need to learn and develop to their full potential.
Case study: A prizewinning approach to building parents’ skills
In El Salvador, only 2% of children have access to any kind of early learning programme and only 52% of children aged 4-6 attend pre-school. As a result many girls and boys enter primary school not ready for formal education, and repetition rates are high.
To address this situation, Plan International has worked with low income urban and rural communities, local authorities and the Ministries of Health and Education since 2010 to test and scale up ‘Community Circles for Integral Attention in Early Childhood’ (CAIPIs in Spanish).
This low-cost model offers care and early learning opportunities for children from birth to 6 years of age with the aim of promoting their cognitive, social, emotional and physical development.
Recognising that the family are the first and most important educators, mothers, fathers or other caregivers are encouraged to attend with their children.
Each CAIPI offers children and their caregivers three 2-hour sessions per week for free play and joint activities, such as learning about baby massage.
The spaces are facilitated by trained community child development workers, who are also supported to run parenting education and support sessions, tackling topics including protection from violence, gender equality, nutrition and infant and young child feeding.
Our children are learning – and we are learning also
It’s making an impact, as one mother of 2 says: “Before the CAIPI started, Dayana and her older brother fought a lot, I was worried. She has changed a lot. No one teaches you how to be a mum, there’s nowhere else to learn: thanks to the CAIPI our children are learning – and we are learning also.”
An increasing number of municipal authorities have adopted and are co-financing the model.
In 2015, the CAIPI model won first prize in the regional ‘Innovation and Good Practices in Education’ competition organised by REDUCA, the regional network of business leaders and corporations committed to quality education.