Early Childhood Development

The first 1000 days of a child’s life can decide their future.

A new life is something to be celebrated and nurtured. A child’s early years of age, spanning from the moment of conception up until their second birthday, will influence their health, growth and learning potential for the rest of their lives. We want every newborn baby to have the best possible start in life.

We work with communities to make sure all children can thrive.

Every parent wants to give their child the very best start to life. But thousands of mothers and fathers all over the world don’t get that chance. They don’t always have access to the tools, resources and information they need to give their babies all they need to survive and thrive. That’s where we come in.

We work with local governments and partners to support mothers and fathers to raise healthy, happy babies. We provide nutrition counselling that includes breastfeeding support, advice on starting home food gardens and food hygiene for infants. We provide information about the milestones children should be reaching for healthy development, and how parents can protect and support their children with education and play to get there. And we work to make sure all families can access clean water, sanitation and hygiene.

After a child is born, I visit the mother and share my knowledge with her at home … so far I’ve supported 63 women.
  • Khin Khin, Plan International community health worker.

How gender affects children’s development

All children need nutrition, care and support to grow and thrive. But in areas where gender inequality is rampant, girls can face a range of barriers and challenges that can affect their health and development.

In some contexts, boys tend to be favoured, prioritised and valued more than girls. Girls are often the first to be pulled from school before their male siblings to tend to domestic duties.

Gender inequality can also play out in a father’s role, when social norms discourage them from taking an active role in caring for and raising their children.

This is why we work to break down gender inequality in early childhood development by challenging gender norms, encouraging both parents to share the responsibility of caring for their children, and supporting fathers to be emotionally and practically engaged in their child’s upbringing.

The community healthcare worker helping end malnutrition

Khin Khin is one of Plan International’s community health workers, and during the wet season, she’s the only health professional where she lives in Myanmar.

Khin Khin runs vital parenting groups in her village that support mothers and fathers to track the growth of their babies, assists mothers who are struggling to breastfeed, and provides information on growing and preparing nutritious meals.

She has seen babies who were very underweight and at risk of stunting grow into healthy, laughing toddlers. She works with parents to make sure they have all the information they need to give their babies the nutrition and early stimulation they need to grow.

Meet Diack – the inspiring father challenging gender roles in Senegal.

“Sex is biological, and it cannot be changed while gender is what is attributed to a person by society – it decides what a man must do and what a woman must do.” Diack, ‘Husbands’ School’ leader.

Diack is a 50-year-old father of seven from Senegal. In his community, traditional gender norms played a huge role in defining what men and women could and could not do. But since Plan International started a project in his community focused on engaging men to support their wives and take on an equal share of childcare duties, things are changing.

At club meetings known as ‘Husbands’ School’, men not only learn about the importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights, but also discuss their honest views and opinions on everything from gender roles to parenting. Diack is now a leader in his club, and believes it has helped him to identify ways to help his wife, and therefore strengthen their relationship.

“The situation has improved,” he says. “If my wife is in the kitchen cooking lunch and I hear the baby crying, I take care of him. In the early morning, while my wife is preparing breakfast, I bathe the children so they won’t be late for school.”

Like her father, Diack’s daughter would like to challenge gender stereotypes too. She aspires to become either a police officer or a military commander when she’s older, and thanks to Plan International programming, Diack understands the importance of supporting her all the way.

“I respect her choice and I must assist her,” he says, with a smile.

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