By Clara Alemann.

Following the reflections shared in my last post, I’d like to outline some topics to bear in mind when integrating gender into childhood development programs.

Understanding how culture and perceptions about gender roles and relationships affect the community where ECD programs are being implemented is vital for designing an intervention model that will be both accepted and effective in supporting children’s socio-emotional and cognitive development.

a) Supporting parents in the parenting task by creating a space where parents can speak with a social worker and other parents about the difficulties they face in balancing childcare, work and household responsibilities as well as share strategies for childrearing, time management and managing the workload at home and outside of it, with the goal of reducing stress and relationship tensions and avoiding child abuse.

b) Promoting opportunities for mothers’ personal development, such as helping mothers to go back to school or providing access to vocational training, agricultural productivity improvement programs, or rural markets. Educated and independent women have more resources available (personal and economic) to help them be better mothers.

c) Preventing domestic violence against women and children: Through home visits and interviews with families, ECD programs can be a mechanism for early detection and can link families to violence-prevention services. The Manual for intra-family violence detection and counseling is an example of a program in Chile that helps ECD program employees to support families when signs of violence in the home have been identified.

d) Training and protocols for health staff and ECD employees who conduct home visits in the early detection of psycho-social risks in expectant mothers during prenatal care visits, to identify and support vulnerable women during pregnancy and after childbirth. The Chilean program Chile Crece Contigo (Grow up together in Chile), created guidelines for psycho-social risks for healthcare professionals to use during the first maternity appointment.

e) Curriculum: Use learning materials that recognize and value the local culture and show examples of how both men and women are heroes, leaders, professionals and problem-solvers.

f) Training mothers and fathers in childrearing practices, nutrition, early learning stimulation and strategies for non-violent discipline: this involves work to include fathers in the entire process, beginning with reproductive services and training, maternal and child health services and training, and parenting and childrearing activities, training and services. It should extend beyond a simple invitation to participate, and instead involve them by showcasing the different roles that men and women traditionally play, and promoting shared responsibility in childrearing and related tasks as well as in childhood development opportunities (education and paid employment). This will promote the idea that giving a high value to their children’s development means enabling them to choose their own life path, regardless of the traditional gender roles dictated by society. Promundo, ICRW, UNFPA, and the Papai Institute have conducted numerous studies and used them to create guides for promoting the integration of men into health interventions emphasizing gender equality, specifically in child care, sexual and reproductive health, and violence prevention. Men care works on campaigns to raise awareness about the subject, as do the EmPAPAte initiative of the Chile Crece Contigo program, the Health Canada’s My Daddy Matters project, and the campaign for responsible fatherhood in United States.

Clara Alemann is a consultant in the Gender and Diversity Division. Her work focuses on analyzing the social determinants of poverty, and integrating gender and diversity into the design and implementation of social protection and health studies and projects, especially those relating to sexual and reproductive health, early childhood development, supporting at-risk young people, and conditional cash transfers.

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