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Why we need to champion
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Why we need to champion children’s and young people’s voices: Three things we learned from speaking to them about COVID-19 in Italy

Leggi questo blog in italiano.As researchers at UNICEF Innocenti, we believe in the importance of listening to children and young people to inform decision-making and policies. For this reason, we designed a qualitative research project to explore how children and young people are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic. The project is currently running in six countries around the world – Italy, Canada, Madagascar, Lesotho, Indonesia, and Chile – and aims to understand:Children and young people’s experiences and feelings during the pandemic; The issues they consider important for their well-being in this context;   Their suggestions to parents, teachers, politicians, and all adults to put their wellbeing first.As a first step, we carried out a pilot project in Italy, where we talked to 114 children and young people aged 10-19 between February and June 2021. Our research participants shared thoughts, reflections, drawings, photographs, and diary entries to describe what it means to grow up during COVID-19. Through multiple interactions, we learned about their memories, emotions, and opinions.   All conversations, writings and drawings echoed three key messages:  Having free time is a protective factor. It is therefore key not to overburden children and young people with school workloads to fill the gap in formal learning. Public discourse focuses on the missed learning opportunities due to remote learning. Surveys measuring students’ learning outcomes show worse results compared to previous years. However, our research project shows that children and young people value and need free time to process the difficulties of their lives, worsened by a global emergency.Recognizing children’s and young people’s contributions, their sacrifices, and what they have learnt throughout the pandemic is a fundamental starting point for future planning. Children and young people have had the time to reflect about themselves, to learn from the peculiar situation they and the people around them have been experiencing, and to grow throughout these lessons and reflections. During crises people tend to ask themselves existential questions. Many children and young people told us they feel that they have changed and grown from dealing with lockdowns, remote learning, and social distancing. By modifying their behaviors, they contributed to collective health and safety, but they had to sacrifice many life experiences, and “normality” like everyone else.Children and young people want to be involved and be part of decision-making processes. We should listen to them. Participants in our research enjoyed talking about how they felt and what they think. They were surprised when asked to put forward recommendations for their parents, teachers, politicians, and for adults in general. They shared good ideas that, if well and quickly channeled, could make meaningful changes. They are concerned about their future and how current responses to the pandemic will affect their lives. Most of them cannot vote yet but they want to take part in decision-making processes.  In a nutshell, this generation of children and young people in Italy is different from the previous ones in a substantial way: they have collectively learnt important life lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic experience. For example, they explained that they learned to value the “little things,” act with responsibility and care vis-à-vis their community, and understand the importance of social relationships. They also often reflected on what they think can make their present and future better. If recognized and supported, they will be able to contribute to rethinking life after the pandemic, in a positive and innovative light.  Children and young people are already speaking out, but they need allies. Parents, teachers, communities, researchers, and politicians can play a major role in supporting, encouraging, and listening to them. How can we as adults, support and be allies to children and young people?  We can look at the opportunities, not just gaps. Do not focus solely on the losses in traditional learning and start thinking creatively about the new learnings the pandemic brought.    “In this period, I have learnt that nothing can be taken for granted. I have learnt the importance of a second, the weight of a hug or a handshake. I learnt that life is just a breath, it is so short that there is no time to waste. I learnt to live second by second, minute by minute, as if they were the last to enjoy to the fullest; a dignified life that I will be able to tell my grandchildren about when I become a grandmother.” (A, 15 years old)  “Looking back at these past months I see a girl who has overcome numerous obstacles that seemed like mountains, a girl that has discovered sides to herself that did not know she had, like stubbornness and a strong determination that brought her great satisfaction. I also see a girl that looks at school with different eyes compared to years ago, she is happy to learn and rack her brain, and she wants to do her best. I think I have also changed a lot, especially in my maturity and I hope to always continue listening to myself, my mind, but above all my heart.”  (S, 16 years old)  We can acknowledge and thank them. Children and young people have strongly contributed to the health and safety of their communities.   “We have renounced to many things, but we are also conscious that we became stronger as people and have proven that as teenagers we belong to a community (…) and that in tough times we can also be supportive of adults while we continue to dream about our future.” (G, high school)  We can listen to what they have to say. We cannot assume that we already know how children and young people feel and what is best for them.   "The issues that the ruling class in Italy should focus on to ensure the present and future well-being of adolescents, in my opinion, are related to their freedom to live surrounded by friends and family. For this reason, it would not be a bad idea to increase the number of green outdoor spaces, to allow children to be together and close to each other in an area with clean, natural air, where they can have fun and talk without too many worries.” (M, 15 years old)   “As far as our political class is concerned, I hope that this epidemic has taught us and made us realize that schools are fundamental for us to be able to grow up in a safer world, and I hope that in the future the government will invest in schools in an intelligent, conscious way, without wasting money that our whole society will pay for.”  (G, high school) We, as researchers, learnt many lessons by talking directly to children and young people and, now more than ever, we strongly believe all adults should listen to and engage with them as key members of society.  For example, by working closely with children and young people in the preliminary stages of the research process, we learnt to dismantle our assumptions about what was ‘best’ from a methodological and ethical perspective and welcomed new and unconsidered possibilities that gave high value to the research work. During the analysis phase, we also started noticing that several of the “characters of the pandemic,” collectively created and drawn by the participants during the focus groups, were purposefully genderless. In that moment we realized that, using creative research methods that allow young people to fully express themselves, can unlock the research potential to tell us more than what we were looking for.  We now look forward to continuing and expanding this research to find out what children and young people have to say in other contexts around the world, and to becoming a bridge between their emotions, thoughts, and ideas, and the decision-makers.  Learn more about the research and related studies in the report “Vite a Colori”.      
Why we need to champion
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Perché è importante ascoltare le voci di bambinə e ragazzə? Tre cose che abbiamo imparato parlando con loro di COVID-19 in Italia

Read this blog in English.Come ricercatori del centro di ricerca di UNICEF Innocenti, crediamo nell'importanza di ascoltare bambinə e ragazzə per informare i processi decisionali e le politiche pubbliche. In quest’ottica, abbiamo progettato una ricerca qualitativa per esplorare come gli adolescenti  hanno vissuto e stanno vivendo la pandemia di COVID-19. Il progetto è attualmente in corso in sei paesi del mondo – Italia, Canada, Madagascar, Lesotho, Indonesia e Cile – e mira a comprendere: Come bambinə e ragazzə vivono la pandemia, come si sentono;   Quali tematiche considerano cruciali da affrontare al fine di preservare il loro benessere in relazione alla pandemia;   Quali sono i loro suggerimenti a genitori, insegnanti, politici e a tutta la società adulta al riguardo.Come primo passo, abbiamo realizzato un progetto pilota in Italia, dove abbiamo parlato con 114 bambinə e ragazzə di età compresa tra 10 e 19 anni tra febbraio e giugno 2021. I partecipanti alla ricerca hanno condiviso pensieri, riflessioni, disegni, fotografie e diari per descrivere cosa significa crescere durante la pandemia di COVID-19.  Attraverso molteplici interazioni, abbiamo imparato a conoscere i  loro ricordi, le loro emozioni e le loro opinioni.  Tutte le conversazioni, gli scritti e i disegni hanno fatto eco a tre messaggi chiave:   Avere tempo libero è un fattore protettivo. É quindi fondamentale non sovraccaricare bambinə e ragazzə con eccessivi impegni scolastici per colmare il divario creatosi nell'apprendimento formale. Il discorso pubblico si concentra sulle opportunità di apprendimento perse a causa della didattica a distanza. I sondaggi che misurano i risultati di apprendimento degli studenti mostrano un peggioramento rispetto agli anni precedenti. Tuttavia, il nostro progetto di ricerca dimostra che bambinə e ragazzə apprezzano avere più tempo libero a disposizione e lo necessitano per elaborare le difficoltà delle loro vite appesantite da un'emergenza globale.  Riconoscere i contributi di bambinə e ragazzə, i loro sacrifici e ciò che hanno imparato durante la pandemia è un punto di partenza fondamentale per la pianificazione futura. Bambinə e ragazzə hanno avuto il tempo di riflettere su se stessɘ, di imparare dalla peculiare situazione che loro e le persone intorno a loro hanno vissuto e di crescere attraverso queste lezioni di vita e le loro riflessioni. Durante le crisi, le persone tendono a porsi domande esistenziali. Molti bambinə e ragazzə ci hanno detto che sentono di essere cambiatɘ e cresciutɘ affrontando i lockdown, l’apprendimento a distanza e il distanziamento sociale. Modificando i loro comportamenti, hanno contribuito alla salute e alla sicurezza collettiva, ma hanno dovuto sacrificare molte esperienze di vita e la loro "normalità" – come tutti gli altri.  Bambinə e ragazzə vogliono essere coinvolti ed essere parte dei processi decisionali. Dobbiamo ascoltarli. I partecipanti alla nostra ricerca hanno apprezzato il fatto di poter parlare di come si sentivano e di cosa pensavano. Sono rimasti sorpresi quando gli abbiamo chiesto di presentare raccomandazioni per i loro genitori, insegnanti, politici e per gli adulti in generale. Hanno condiviso buone idee che, se canalizzate bene e tempestivamente, potrebbero apportare cambiamenti significativi. Sono preoccupati per il loro futuro e per come le attuali risposte alla pandemia influenzeranno le loro vite. La maggior parte di loro non può ancora votare, ma vuole prendere parte ai processi decisionali. In poche parole, questa generazione di bambinə e ragazzə in Italia è sostanzialmente diversa dalle precedenti: hanno imparato in modo collettivo e come gruppo importanti lezioni di vita in relazione all'esperienza di pandemia di COVID-19.  Ad esempio, hanno spiegato di aver imparato a valorizzare l'importanza delle "piccole cose", agendo con responsabilità e cura nei confronti della propria comunità, e comprendendo l'importanza delle relazioni sociali. Hanno anche riflettuto molto su ciò che pensano possa rendere migliore il loro presente e il loro futuro. Se sostenuti e riconosciuti, saranno in grado di contribuire a ripensare la vita dopo la pandemia, in modo positivo e innovativo. Bambinə e ragazzə stanno già parlando, ma hanno bisogno di alleati. Genitori, insegnanti, comunità, ricercatori e politici possono svolgere un ruolo importante nel sostenerli, incoraggiarli e ascoltarli.Come possiamo noi adulti sostenere ed essere alleati di bambinə e ragazzə?  Guardando le opportunità, non solo le lacune. Non concentrandoci esclusivamente sulle perdite nell'apprendimento tradizionale ma tenendo in considerazione e facendo leva sugli altri apprendimenti portati dalla pandemia.“Durante questo periodo ho imparato che nulla è scontato, ho appreso l’importanza che racchiude un secondo, il peso di un abbraccio o di una stretta di mano, ho appreso che la vita è un soffio, dura talmente poco che non c’è tempo da sprecare, ho imparato a vivere secondo per secondo, minuto per minuto, come se fossero gli ultimi per potermi godere la vita al massimo, una vita degna, una vita che potrò raccontare ai miei nipoti quando sarò nonna.” (A, 15 anni) “Guardando indietro a questi mesi passati vedo una ragazza che ha oltrepassato numerosi ostacoli che sembravano quasi montagne, una ragazza che ha scoperto dei lati che non pensava di avere come la testardaggine e la forte determinazione che l'ha poi portata a numerose soddisfazioni. Vedo anche una ragazza che guarda la scuola con occhi diversi rispetto ad anni fa, è felice d’imparare, “scervellarsi” e ha voglia di dare il massimo. Penso anche di essere cambiata molto, soprattutto a livello di maturità, e spero di continuare sempre così, ascoltando me stessa, la mia mente ma soprattutto il mio cuore.” (S, 16 anni)  Riconoscendoli e ringraziandoli. Bambinə e ragazzə hanno fortemente contribuito alla salute e  alla sicurezza delle loro comunità. “Abbiamo rinunciato a molte cose ma abbiamo anche la consapevolezza di esserci rafforzati come persone e di aver dimostrato che anche noi adolescenti facciamo parte di una comunità (...) e che nel momento della difficoltà anche noi possiamo essere supporto agli adulti  pur continuando a sognare il nostro futuro.”  (G, scuola superiore)  Ascoltando quello che hanno da dire. Non dando per scontato di sapere a priori come si sentono e cosa è meglio per loro.   “I temi su cui la classe dirigente in Italia si dovrebbe focalizzare per garantire il benessere, presente e futuro, degli adolescenti, secondo me, sono legati alla loro libertà di vivere circondati dagli amici e dalla famiglia. Per questo non sarebbe una cattiva idea aumentare gli spazi verdi all’aperto, per permettere ai ragazzi di stare insieme e vicini in una zona con aria pulita e naturale, dove possono divertirsi e parlare senza troppe preoccupazioni.” (M, 15 anni)“Per quanto riguarda la nostra classe politica spero che questa epidemia abbia insegnato e fatto capire quanto la scuola deve essere un punto fermo per poter farci crescere in un mondo più sicuro e spero che in futuro il governo investa nella scuola in modo intelligente, consapevole, senza sprechi che tutta la nostra società andrà a pagare.” (G, scuola superiore)Come ricercatori, abbiamo  imparato molte cose parlando direttamente con bambinə e ragazzə e, ora più che mai, crediamo fermamente che tutti gli adulti dovrebbero ascoltarli e confrontarsi con loro come membri chiave della società. Ad esempio, lavorando a stretto contatto con bambinɘ e ragazzɘ nella primissima fase del processo di ricerca, abbiamo imparato a smantellare le nostre ipotesi su ciò che pensavamo fosse "migliore" dal punto di vista metodologico ed etico e abbiamo accolto possibilità nuove e non considerate che hanno dato un valore estremamente elevato al lavoro di ricerca. Durante la fase di analisi, abbiamo inoltre iniziato a notare che molti dei "personaggi della pandemia", creati collettivamente e disegnati dai partecipanti durante i focus group, erano volutamente genderless. In quel momento ci siamo resi conto che utilizzando metodi di ricerca creativa che permettono ai ragazzi di esprimersi appieno, possiamo sbloccare il potenziale di ricerca e ottenere più di quello che stavamo cercando. Ora siamo ansiosi di continuare ed espandere questo progetto per scoprire cosa hanno da dire bambinə e i ragazzə in altri contesti del mondo e per diventare un ponte tra le loro emozioni, pensieri e idee e i decisori politici. Seguite il nostro lavoro per ricevere informazioni sui prossimi risultati di ricerca.  Scopri di più su questo progetto e sugli studi correlati nel rapporto "Vite a Colori".    
Students studying in a school in Roça Diogo Vaz, São Tomé and Príncipe
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Reimagining education through digital learning in São Tomé and Príncipe

São Tomé and Príncipe, an island country off the west coast of Africa, is facing a learning crisis.Already before the pandemic, two out of three students at the end of grade 2 were unable to read. With support from UNICEF, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education has stepped up to the task: The small nation is now becoming a trailblazer for digital learning. Thanks to large investments from the World Bank, the Millennium Foundation, the Akelius foundation and the Learning Passport fund, access to digital learning technologies and platforms is being expanded. The Millennium Foundation and jp.ik have already provided enough laptops to reach every child and adolescent in the Autonomous Region of Príncipe.   A student in the Autonomous Region of Príncipe working on a learning laptop. Understanding that technology by itself does not ensure learning outcomes, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education and UNICEF have teamed up to develop a systems approach to digital learning. This approach includes improving electricity and connectivity, training and upskilling teachers, developing digital learning solutions and content, maintaining and managing devices – and lastly, engaging young people, communities and educators around the topic.  The nation’s ambitious project and learnings from its implementation could benefit not only the country, but children everywhere. Generating evidence, especially for offline digital learning is crucial in a country where 70 per cent of the population does not use the internet and 25 per cent do not have access to electricity.   That is why the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, UNICEF São Tomé and Príncipe, the University of São Tomé and Príncipe, and UNICEF’s Office of Research – Innocenti are working together to embed mixed-methods research into the deployment of the enhanced digital learning system. Using human-centered design, the team aims to learn from students and teachers about how to improve the learning experience, to then share the findings among users, partners, developers and colleagues facing similar challenges across the globe. The research will answer the following questions: Which skills and support do teachers need in order to use technology effectively in their teaching practices?  What are the best ways for teachers to manage technology in the classroom with their students? How can digital learning solutions like the Learning Passport and the Akelius digital course be used to improve learning?   Young students in São Tomé, São Tomé and Príncipe on their way back from school. The journey to reimagine education in São Tomé and Príncipe has just begun. Follow along the progress of this research as we test, iterate, learn and document a path to deliver digital learning at scale in West and Central Africa. When implemented well, digital learning has the power to transform education systems worldwide, mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on learning and improve learning outcomes for all children. Helena Botelho, PhD, is the Director of Basic Education at the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in São Tomé and Príncipe. Mirabel Costa Ribeiro is the Chief of Education at UNICEF São Tomé and Príncipe. Rafael Pontuschka is an Education Researcher at the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti. Nujoma Quaresma is the Coordinator of the Technology Studies in the Faculty of Science and Technology at the University of São Tomé and Príncipe. 
Can more women in school leadership improve learning outcomes?
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Can more women in school leadership improve learning outcomes?

 The global education community has long focused on girls’ education and finding pathways to increasing girls’ access and retention in school, improving learning, and supporting girls’ holistic wellbeing. While the positive effects of female teachers on girls’ education have been well-researched, one piece often missing from gender discussions in education is school leadership – and the noticeable absence of women school leaders around the world.  For much of his life, Matt Brossard, Chief of Education at UNICEF Innocenti, has been surrounded by teachers and school leaders: both of his parents were teachers, his sister and his cousin are teachers, and his aunt was a primary school leader. Before segueing into a career shaping evidence, policy, and programmes on education, Matt taught mathematics in a secondary school center led by a man. Jessica Bergmann, an education researcher at UNICEF Innocenti, spent her entire education – from primary to secondary school and even to university – without a single female school leader. This experience continued when she became a secondary school English teacher, teaching in a school that was also led by a male principal.  As part of a new research initiative they are developing at UNICEF Innocenti, Women in Learning Leadership (WiLL), Matt and Jessica reflect on their personal experiences while looking at the available research and data. They realized that having more female head teachers could be an untapped opportunity to address the learning crisis, for both girls and boys. There is a gender gap in school leadership  School leaders play a critical role in creating high-quality teaching and learning environments. Effective school leaders can contribute to improving student learning outcomes, closing equity gaps, and fostering strong relationships between schools and the communities they serve. Yet, women remain underrepresented in school leadership roles, despite their increasing representation in the teaching workforce. Across several Latin American and Caribbean countries, including Mexico, Chile, and Colombia, there is a 20-percentage point difference between the share of female public primary school leaders and the share of female teachers, according to 2013 TERCE data.  Similar trends are seen across 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa that participated in the 2019 PASEC assessment, where only 22 per cent of surveyed students attended a school with a female head teacher. Findings from our Data Must Speak positive deviance research show similar results: in Niger, Mali, and Togo, only about 1 in 10 school leaders are women (see Figure 1). Even in Niger, where 40 per cent of teachers are female, only 11 per cent of school leaders are women.  Figure 1: Female participation in school leadership and in the teaching workforce (primary education)  Emerging evidence shows students attending women-led schools may learn more  Early analysis and research from UNICEF Innocenti and other organizations shows that women-led schools may perform better than men-led schools. Across the PASEC-participating countries, learning outcomes at the end of primary school for both girls and boys in female-led schools are higher. PASEC 2019 assessment shows that the difference is statistically significant in eight countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Madagascar, Niger, and Senegal) in reading and in six countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Madagascar, Senegal) in mathematics.   In Lao PDR, our research shows that highly effective schools – schools that perform better than others in a similar context with the same resources – are twice as likely than other schools to be led by a woman. In Mozambique, schools with a female school leader have lower dropout rates than schools with a male school leader, noting that these results may be driven by the higher concentration of female school leaders in urban areas and more developed regions of the country (UNICEF Innocenti, forthcoming). In Togo, primary school exam results and promotion rates are higher for girls in schools where the head teacher is a woman, even when controlling for a set of contextual and geographical variables, such as whether the school is in an urban or rural area (UNICEF Innocenti, forthcoming).  We do not know enough about women’s participation and impact in school leadership   There is a lot we still do not understand about women in learning leadership.  First, we need to better understand women’s participation in school leadership roles and identify the critical barriers preventing them from moving into these roles. We need to look at recruitment and selection policies and also at social and cultural perceptions to find solutions that can increase women’s representation in school leadership. Second, more evidence is needed to understand the differences in learning outcomes for schools led by women compared to men and identify what practices, behaviors and attitudes contribute to these differences. What do women school leaders do that leads to better school performance? And how can we incentivize more school leaders, both women and men, to adopt these behaviors? These questions have formed the foundation of UNICEF Innocenti’s new research initiative, Women in Learning Leadership, which aims to expand the evidence base on gender and school leadership. Too many students around the world still move through their educational experiences without seeing women as part of the leadership landscape. This reinforces existing gender norms and stereotypes surrounding effective leaders and leadership capabilities. Both girls and boys could benefit from more women school leaders.  For International Women’s Day and beyond, as we reflect on ways to create a more gender equal world and #BreakTheBias, school leadership must remain a part of the conversation – because where there is a WiLL, there is a way. Read more about women’s underrepresentation in school leadership roles and the emerging evidence that suggests women-led schools perform better in the latest evidence brief, Increasing Women’s Representation in School Leadership: A Promising Path Towards Improving Learning, co-authored by UNICEF Innocenti and IIEP-UNESCO Dakar.Jessica Bergmann is an education researcher at UNICEF Innocenti and Matt Brossard is the Chief of Education at UNICEF Innocenti. For more information about our Women in Learning Leadership (WiLL) research initiative and how to engage, Jessica and Matt can be contacted at jbergmann@unicef.org and mbrossard@unicef.org.   
Can social protection simultaneously reduce violence against children and violence against women?
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Can social protection simultaneously reduce violence against children and violence against women?

Despite the identification of cash transfers as a promising evidence-informed strategy to address violence against children (VAC) and violence against women (VAW) – until recently, there was little evidence from low- and middle-income country settings (LMICs), that assessed the effects of such interventions on both in the same study. Yet, cash transfers and broader forms of social protection have potential to address both forms of violence through shared risk factors, including reductions in poverty and economic stress, or through complementary ‘plus’ programming targeting risk factors related to conflict in the home or violence norms (see reviews on VAC and IPV).   In this blog, we summarize five studies completed in the last two years that examine impacts of cash, cash-for-work and cash plus programmes on both violent discipline of children and male intimate partner violence against women (IPV) from diverse LMICs – Bangladesh, Colombia, Mali, the Philippines and Rwanda. We include both studies evaluating the effects of cash alone, cash plus programming, as well as those that evaluate just the impacts of the ‘plus’. We focus on studies that were rigorously designed and measured violent discipline and IPV in the same household (rather than those focused on violence against adolescent girls, which might fall in the nexus of both categories of violence). To our knowledge, with the exception of a previous study in Mexico (from 2013), these 5 studies are the only available publications from LMICs examining both types of violence in the same evaluation. We also offer key take away messages and suggest areas for future research.     Bangladesh: An experimental study examined post-intervention effects of the Transfer Modality Research Initiative pilot, implemented in rural areas over 24 months by the World Food Programme. The intervention provided both transfers (cash and food), as well as a group-based nutrition behavior change (BCC) intervention to women with young children living in poor households. The evaluation found reductions in physical IPV of 26% among women in the cash plus BCC arm, however no impacts in the transfer only arm (and no impacts on emotional IPV). In addition, the authors examine two indicators of physical violent discipline from parents taken from the HOME inventory (whether mothers had hit the child during the week prior to the study and if parents react with physical discipline if they are hit by the child). The study found reductions of 25% to 38% across violent discipline indicators, again in the cash plus BCC arm (8 to 12 percentage points [pp]- reported in the online appendix). The author’s examination of mechanisms for IPV suggests that reductions in poverty-related stress, and increases in household economic status, which were larger in the BCC arm, may be a possible joint pathway for reductions in both violence measures (Roy et al. 2019 in the Review of Economics and Statistics).   Colombia: A quasi-experimental study of the government’s conditional cash transfer program targeted to poor households with school-aged children, Familias en Acción, used variation in the timing of bi-monthly payments at the municipality level paired with municipality-level administrative data on reported levels of violence from health and legal services. The authors show that rates of overall domestic violence, as well as rates of IPV from administrative data reported to health and justice systems, decrease by 6% in payment months. In contrast, there are no changes in reported domestic violence specifically against minors. Authors also show that household spending is higher in payment months—suggesting a poverty and stress reduction mechanism achieved via higher consumption expenditures (Camacho & Rodriguez 2020 in the CEDE Working Paper series)   Mali: An experimental study of the government’s Jigisémèjiri program, an unconditional quarterly cash transfer given primarily to male heads of household found decreases in IPV after 24-months. These decreases were concentrated in polygamous households (making up 40% of the sample), where reductions were found for controlling behaviors (23% or 16 pp), emotional IPV (37% or 13 pp) and physical IPV (40% or 7 pp). The study also reported on VAC among a target child aged 2 to 4 years old using the UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey measures – showing similar trends as for IPV. Measures of psychological aggression against children were insignificant in the full sample, however physical punishment and number of total acts showed reductions—which increased in magnitude and significance among the polygamous households (showing decreases in psychological aggression of 16% or 11 pps and in physical punishment of 20% or 17 pps). Key mechanisms underlying impacts were reductions in men’s stress and anxiety, as well as in reported household disputes (Heath et al. 2020 in the Journal of Development Economics).   The Philippines: An experimental study of a locally-adapted 12-session group-based parenting program (Masayang Pamilya Para Sa Batang Pilipino – or MaPa) layered on the government flagship conditional cash transfer (Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Programme) reported impacts at program end and 12-months post program. The evaluated intervention reached female caregivers of children aged 2 to 6 years in low-income families in urban Manila. The evaluation found reductions in incidence and frequency of child maltreatment at both follow-up waves, measuring using the ISPCAN Child Abuse Screening tool (e.g. a 49% reduced risk of physical abuse at post-intervention and a 48% reduced risk of neglect). For IPV, risk reductions at program end were 63% and at 12 months post-intervention were 49%. Possible common mechanisms of impact were those reducing overall incidence of family conflict and stress, increased caregiver efficacy and confidence when dealing with male spouses, fewer daily child behavior problems, and lower parenting dysfunction, among others (Lachman et al. 2021 in The Lancet Regional Health – Western Pacific).   Rwanda: An experimental study examined the impacts of the Sugira Muryango program – a home-visiting-based parenting intervention – layered on a government flagship social protection program ‘Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme’ targeting poor households with direct cash support and public works. Sugira Muryango included 12 sessions delivered over 3 months by community-based coaches promoting early childhood development (ECD) and preventing family violence. The study examined outcomes at 12-months post-intervention, showing reductions in female caregiver reports of IPV experience (IRR=0.616, 95% CI 0.458 to 0.828) as well as VAC as measured by harsh parenting using the UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey measures (IRR=0.741, 95% CI 0.657 to 0.835). However, no significant impact was shown on male caregiver report of IPV perpetration (among an alternate sample of households where male caregivers were surveyed). The program also showed significant increases in engaging fathers in childcare and select child development outcomes (Jensen et al. 2021 in BMJ Global Health).   Take away messages and future studies   Taken together, these studies suggest a similar pattern of impacts. Across all but one study (Colombia), where impacts are found on IPV—the similar direction of impacts are found for VAC. In Bangladesh, impacts are only observed with the addition of plus components. However, in Rwanda and the Philippines—the evaluation focuses exclusively on the plus intervention—thus we are unable to fully disentangle if there are synergistic or countervailing impacts of the economic component alone. In three cases (Bangladesh, the Philippines and Rwanda) the evaluation includes post-intervention effects, showing that reductions in both IPV and VAC are sustained even after the program ends. The lack of impacts for VAC in Colombia may be due to the use of administrative data on cases of violence reported to health and justice systems (which capture only a fraction of violence prevalence), or the identification strategy (relying on the timing of payments) may not be meaningful enough variation for impacts. In spite of differences in social protection strategies and methodologies used to measure impact, overall, these results show that social protection is a promising intervention and platform to reduce both violence against children and violence against women.   Moving forward, more studies are needed that explore the effectiveness of social protection on multiple dimensions of violence. In doing so, evaluations will need to take a more holistic approach to map out pathways of impact and measure violence. For example, to affect IPV, social protection evaluations often target and focus on women alone and seek to empower her and change her circumstances – however to fundamentally change violence inside the home and parenting practices tied to violent discipline, it is essential to involve and collect data from men as well. In addition, more evidence is needed on possible intergenerational effects – another key point of intersection between VAC and VAW — for example, linking benefits realized by adolescent girls in households receiving social protection benefits to stability and freedom from violence in future intimate relationships. From a methodological standpoint, this research agenda is ripe for inter-disciplinary collaboration between development economists who typically evaluate social protection programming, and public health experts on VAC and VAW.   Stay tuned for more work from UNICEF Innocenti and partners on the intersection of VAC and VAW, including systematic reviews (on effective interventions and shared risk factors) and results from Mozambique’s Child Grant evaluation measuring impacts on violent discipline and IPV.         Authors: Amber Peterman is a Research Associate Professor at UNC where she co-leads the Cash Transfer and Intimate Partner Violence Research Collaborative and consultant to UNICEF Innocenti, Alessandra Guedes is the Gender & Development Research Manager at UNICEF Innocenti.   The authors would like to thank Elena Camilletti and Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed for helpful comments.      
Four young researchers reflect on their work at UNICEF Innocenti
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Four young researchers reflect on their work at UNICEF Innocenti

  The authors worked at the UNICEF Innocenti from May to November 2021 as interns within the Research in Education and Development (READ) team. Here they talk about their experience and lessons learned as young researchers at UNICEF’s Office of Research - Innocenti.Four of us flew from different parts of the world – France, Peru, Philippines, and the United States – to work as interns at the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti in Florence, Italy. Living in Florence and having the opportunity to immerse ourselves in a variety of education research projects was something out of a dream. We were different and diverse in our individual backgrounds, and interest and specialty in research, but our internship experiences brought a shared memory of warm collegiality and of both personal and professional aspects of education research. In this blog, we share our reflections from our internship experiences and the different elements that constitute successful research in action from stakeholder partnership to professional and ethical management of research: Co-creating with stakeholdersCo-creating research with stakeholders at the onset ensures alignment with priorities and promotes research uptake and sustainability. When we let national governments and other local stakeholders take part in conceptualization, they identify research problems and approaches that could best respond to the challenges that they are experiencing. Additionally, the co-creation process allows them to take full ownership of both the research and the resulting policies. Kevin: “With co-creation being one of the core guiding principles of the Data Must Speak (DMS) research, I particularly witnessed how Ministries of Education (MoE) and various stakeholders co-developed and co-implemented the research to fit their context. Before the research takes place, stakeholders participate in co-creation workshops to analyze the resources and contexts associated with school performance in their country. They also participate in actual data collection, cleaning, and analysis. For instance, in Nepal, MoE personnel and other education stakeholders participated in technical workshops on using a statistical software that strengthened their technical skills in research and allowed them to harmonize existing education datasets.”Adapting research to realitySomething we learned right away as new researchers at UNICEF Innocenti is that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. Drawing from our academic training and applying it to ongoing research requires us to think on our feet, constantly adapting to what is most relevant, practically and ethically feasible and appropriate. There are no cookie-cutter answers: The best research approach for a given situation will look different for each case. It is also imprinted upon us very strongly that the goal of our research is to best serve the programme and ultimately improve the lives of children around the world. Andrea: “I recently worked to support the restructuring of survey instruments for the Akelius programme in Mauritania. We started from a ‘data we would like to have’ standpoint, then worked our way to ‘data that is available’, keeping in mind the time it requires for students and teachers to fill out the surveys. I also learnt quickly that what I, as an external researcher, consider useful data is not necessarily the data and analysis that would best inform and benefit the program implementation. Embedding research into program implementation is a process of tailoring, and it is important that it be done in close collaboration with local project staff and management.”Working collaboratively across disciplinesAnother highlight of our experience was the opportunity to work with a diverse, interdisciplinary team. At Innocenti, we are a mix of cultures, experiences, disciplines and methods. The four of us ourselves have been trained in a broad range of topics – education, psychology, economics, communication, etc. We each bring something different and equally important to the table and are ultimately focused on a common goal, rather than on defending our respective methods. This has been a valuable experience - we have a lot more perspective now and can no longer go back to working in our own disciplinary silos. Turning research findings into action pointsThe internship has demonstrated to us how powerful and useful research can be for the improvement of children’s lives. A crucial part of research is not only generating more knowledge and conducting a methodologically appropriate project, but most importantly, informing policy and guiding action. Therefore, it is essential to translate research findings into concrete and contextualized policy recommendations that can be applied by stakeholders at different levels. This is a key step if our aim is to bridge research, policy and practice, and ensure a high research uptake. Stefania: “For the WCAR ‘Time to Teach’ report, we developed policy recommendations for stakeholders at different levels (national, subnational and district) based on rigorous existing evidence. We previously conducted a literature review to inform this section of the report and included specific initiatives to address the gaps identified in the education systems of participating countries. We ensured that all recommendations were feasible in the context we were working in”. Tailor-fitting research outputsDisseminating research findings can be an overwhelming process for researchers who have been trained to produce long reports. It is easy to rely on communication and design specialists when producing research outputs tailored to different audiences beyond academic journals. However, researchers should be good communicators as well. Understanding the basics of the design process can go a long way in terms of disseminating research findings effectively and promoting research uptake. Kevin: “When it was time to share the findings of the DMS research in Lao PDR with various national and local education stakeholders, the real task was thinking of a way to present the research in a manner that is easy to understand and engaging. After a series of conversations with the MoE, we decided to publish a series of short and catchy policy briefs (Policy Brief 1 and Policy Brief 2) to complement the longer quantitative report. This way, the target audience was given a chance to quickly read and reflect on the main research findings, while attending to their other equally important day-to-day tasks.”Researchers versus ‘subjects’ of researchBeing immersed in the field of educational research, it is challenging to empathetically situate ourselves in the harsh realities that subjects of our research confront in their everyday life. Amid the hectic procedures of research from web scraping to data analysis and internal/external review processes, it is easy to forget that the “subjects” or true beneficiaries of the research are millions of young children in need who are living and breathing right now in all corners of this world. Youngkwang: “In It’s Not Too Late to Act on Early Learning, I had a chance to advocate for the importance of reopening pre-primary education to alleviate the learning loss of many young children across the globe. However, preoccupied with procedural sequences of the project, I was thinking less of the young children missing out on opportunities due to school closures, but rather about the ‘process.’ Although I was very proud of being a part of the research project, I found myself feeling relieved from the completion of the project and planning for another upcoming project. In this self-reflection, I learned the importance of not losing touch with the bigger, ultimate goal of research – to genuinely advocate the very lives of many young children in need."Who are we doing the research for?Honestly speaking, it is hard for us as interns to only think about the lives of many young children living in far distances across the globe. As young researchers, we cannot help ourselves from thinking about how effectively we are serving the needs of the organization we are working for. Throughout the internship, we have to constantly measure ourselves whether we acclimate to the organizational culture (whether or not we make any faux pas) and whether we are making the best out of our internship and fine progress in our career trajectory. While it is very difficult to suppress the stream of these thoughts, we need to keep asking ourselves this fundamental question: Who are we doing the research for and why? Yes, this internship is a great opportunity to learn about educational research and to proceed in our career paths. More importantly, however, it is an honorable opportunity to support and shape the future of young people in the world and to remind us that we too are young people who share the same future. Reflecting on ethicsCollaborating across different education projects at UNICEF Innocenti has made us think about what ethical research really means and what it entails. We have learned that, beyond formal reviews by ethical committees, there are critical questions that researchers should ask themselves: Why are we doing the research? Is it feasible in that location? Who benefits from the research? These questions allow us to challenge our own assumptions and ensure a more reliable and context-specific research process. Moreover, it is crucial to consider what voices the research findings are echoing. When possible, it is key to include the users and actors involved in delivering the services we are researching. Their voices will provide us with some of the most valuable insights. Stefania: “When drafting the ‘Time to Teach’ reports, I have learnt the importance of truthful storytelling. The way in which we jointly presented qualitative and quantitative data in the WCAR report helped us to tell the story of the challenges faced by teachers in the region. We wanted our findings to reflect teachers’ experiences as much as possible, for readers to understand the complexity of the drivers that can lead them to be absent from schools. When selecting quotes to illustrate findings and writing sections of the report, I tried to ask myself if my words were echoing the tough circumstances that teachers live every day to reach their students”. Our time as interns and young researchers at UNICEF Innocenti flew swiftly. Armed with passion to discover how we can improve the lives of children and youth through research, we were welcomed whole-heartedly by the READ team and given the opportunity to fully immerse ourselves in every aspect of the research process. What made our internship experience truly special was our willingness to actively collaborate with one another and a strong sense of collegial connection amongst us four interns. As we complete our internship at UNICEF Innocenti and continue our journey as researchers, what will stay with us are important lessons of what constitutes exemplary education research and fond memories of learning together with the kindest, most supportive team.   Andrea Dsouza worked with the Innovations in Education unit of the READ team, on the Let us Learn (LUL) and Digital Learning projects. She holds a Masters in Development Economics from Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. Kevin Clidoro worked for the Data Must Speak Research at UNICEF Innocenti READ Team. He is currently on his way to earning a master's degree with a focus on education policy at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy in Universität Erfurt. Stefania Vindrola worked in the ‘Time to Teach’ project at UNICEF Innocenti READ team. She is an Educational Psychologist and holds a Masters in Sociology of Childhood and Children’s Rights from University College London (UCL). Youngkwang Jeon worked for the Early Childhood Education (ECE) unit at UNICEF’s Office of Research – Innocenti READ team. Youngkwang holds a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School and recently completed his M.Ed. in International Education Policy from Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Eight Great Childhood Stories in Eight Decades: A celebration of UNICEF75 in film
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Eight Great Childhood Stories in Eight Decades: A celebration of UNICEF75 in film

UNICEF turns 75 this year. To celebrate its resolute commitment to children – and as we launch the second UNICEF Innocenti Film Festival showcasing new, high-quality cinema narratives of childhood – we look back to some of the greatest film narratives of childhood. After watching hundreds of amazing films about childhood from every corner of the world, from the 1940s to 2010s, we selected one from each decade that tells a story in consonance with UNICEF’s mission to protect children's rights, help meet their basic needs and expand their opportunities to reach their full potential. From helping displaced or abandoned children to ensuring special protection for the most disadvantaged – victims of war, disasters, extreme poverty, all forms of violence and exploitation, and those with disabilities – UNICEF strives to work for every child, at all stages of childhood, including adolescence.    The Search, USA, 1948Against the backdrop of post-World War II Europe, is the story of a Karel (Ivan Jandl), a young concentration camp survivor in search of a future; Steve (Montgomery Clift), a US Army engineer in search of justice; and Hanna (Jarmila Novotná), a mother desperately in search of her son. While Steve befriends Karel, he devotes himself to working with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) – re-emerged in 1946 as “temporary” programme then called the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Directed by Fred Zinnemann, a pioneer in “location” films – mostly shot among the ruins of war in Germany – The Search is one the early films to show the horrible impacts of the war on children. It might also be the first Hollywood production to depict the work of the United Nations and UNICEF, which still addresses the most challenging humanitarian issues facing children in conflict zones today. The Search won the 1948 Academy Award for Best Story and a Special Juvenile Oscar given to Ivan Jandl was accepted on his behalf by Fred Zinnemann because he was not allowed to travel to the US from his home in the country today known as Czechia.    Pather Panchali, India, 1955A poetic and immersive directorial debut by one of India’s greatest filmmakers, Satyajit Ray, Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road in Bengali) was a bona fide international film festival sensation. While not widely distributed at the time of its release, it premiered at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1955 – just two years after the UN General Assembly approved a new, and for the first time permanent, mission for UNICEF to assist vulnerable children around the world. Heavily influenced by the Italian neorealism movement, Pather Panchali focuses on the lives of poor children and their family, particularly their female caregivers, in a rural Bengal village. India’s first independent film to attract major international attention and sensitize a global audience to the hardships of the country’s rural poor, it has been criticized for romanticizing the lives of the poor, and praised for its realism and humanity.    L’Enfance nue, France, 1968Abandoned by his mother, François is a child of the French foster care system, continually placed in and kicked out of foster families because of his troubled and, at times, cruel behavior. However, at 10 years old, he also has a softer, reflective side. Maurice Pialat’sL’Enfance nue (Naked Childhood), presents an unvarnished look at what happens to children when things go wrong, and parents cannot provide the care they need. Released during the tense May 1968 civil unrest in France, which began with a series of student protests, L’Enfance nue, drew attention for its unsentimental portrayal of children in the foster care system. At the same time, new research and thinking about children in care showed unacceptable outcomes for institutionalized children. Orphanages and childcare institutions – including the Ospedale Degli Innocenti in Florence – had begun to rethink their forms of care for abandoned children and to consider closing such institutions in favor of homelike care settings, a trend which would grow and expand to countries at all levels of economic development in the years to follow.    Tale of Tales, Soviet Union, 1979Judged in 1984 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to be the best animated short film of all time, Tale of Tales is a good example of the great achievements in animation across the Eastern Bloc prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Director Yuri Norstein’s scenes were said to appear like masterful oil paintings that came alive with perfect realism. This powerful impression was said to have been achieved by a unique system of photographing animated cells on multiple glass planes which were moved relative to the camera. The film’s structure is non-linear, and designed to convey the fragmentary and fuzzy images of human memory. The binding element is the perception of childhood during war-time poverty combined with nostalgic scenes of close human relationships experienced during times of deprivation. In Norstein’s words, the film is “about simple concepts that give you the strength to live.” Tale of Tales appeared at a time when international efforts toward the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) began to accelerate with the passage of numerous international agreements in the 1970s, building to near universal consensus on the need for the Convention and culminating in a International Year of the Child in 1979. The CRC was eventually passed by the UN General Assembly in 1989.    Bashu, the Little Stranger, Iran, 1986A dazed and traumatized boy emerges from a truck thousands of miles from his war-ravaged town near the Iran-Iraq battlefront of the 1980s. Little Bashu finds himself in Northern Iran, haunted by the spirits of his deceased mother and family members and unable to understand a single word of the local dialect (Gilaki). Taunted for his dark skin and seemingly alien ways by the villagers, he is taken in by Naii, a mother of two children trying to manage the family farm while her husband is far away in the war. Considered by many as one of the most powerful Iranian feature films of the time, director Bahram Beyzai successfully portrays an ostracized child with dignity and dimensionality, while revealing the problem of racial and ethnic prejudice. At a time of growing awareness of and concern about the dramatic increase in the number of civilian casualties of armed conflict, with disastrous implications for children, Bashu, the Little Stranger tells an important story about overcoming differences.   </div><p> </p> <p> </p> <h3>La Petite Vendeuse de Soleil, Senegal, 1999</h3> <p>Sili, an adolescent with a disability in Dakar, decides she will be the first girl to sell <em>Le Soleil</em>, the national daily newspaper – a job ruled by boys. Even though she is repeatedly harassed and mistreated by the boys, Sili overcomes her challenges with unruffled confidence. Despite having only made two features and five short films, Senegalese filmmaker <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Djibril_Diop_Mamb%C3%A9ty">Djibril Diop Mambéty</a> caught the attention of the film world several times before he died in 1998. <em>La Petite Vendeuse de Soleil</em> (<em>The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun</em>) attracted wide acclaim at the Berlin, Toronto, Hong Kong and Rotterdam international film festivals when it was released in 1999, and broke new ground by featuring the story of a disabled child. While UNICEF continues to work and advocate for children with disabilities, far too many are still denied a fair chance to make their dreams real or to be included as equal participants in their communities, as recognized in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities. </p> <div class="iframe-container"><iframe allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ByXuk9QqQkk" title="YouTube video player" width="560"> Spirited Away, Japan, 2001While driving to their new home in a faraway town, nine-year-old Chihiro’s family falls into a mystical world populated by humans and Kami, the traditional Japanese spirits of the natural world. To rescue her parents and safeguard her future, Chihiro embarks on an epic journey, one that will test her judgment, courage and loyalty. That said, Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece, Spirited Away – an enormously popular film that remains one of the top grossing Japanese feature films of all time – defies any simple description. It combines the highest art of storytelling with a deep meditation of complex themes: the transition from child to adult; resistance to consumerism; and respect for the natural world. Appearing at a time when UNICEF and others started focusing more attention on adolescent health and skills, it speaks to those same themes. “It's not a story in which the characters grow up, but a story in which they draw on something already inside them, brought out by the particular circumstances.”— Hayao Miyazaki.    La Jaula de Oro, Guatemala/Mexico, 2010Despite the dangers, Samuel, a rag picker, Chauk, an indigenous boy, and Sara – disguised as a boy named Osvaldo – are determined to leave Guatemala for the US. After crossing the Mexican border by boat, the trio hop on slow moving trains headed north. Along the way, they are exposed to violent police, drug cartels and petty criminals, all looking to deceive or exploit them. Only one of the three survives the journey. Screened at Cannes Film Festival’s 2013 “Un Certain Regard” showcase, The Golden Cage (distributed in the US as The Golden Dream) received notable attention. Diego Quemada-Diaz won awards for best director and best ensemble cast (played by young non-professional actors). Shot in Guatemala and Mexico, the film offers a stark look at what happens to the thousands of unaccompanied minors who still undertake this same journey today. When the film opened, the news of surges of unaccompanied minors arriving at the US border began to hit the headlines, foreshadowing an even larger version of the same humanitarian crisis affecting Europe in 2015. The film authentically portrays children on the move in the 21st century, providing an unflinching revelation of the danger and trauma these young people are exposed to and the depths of their determination to move. (Please note: The UNICEF Innocenti Film Festival, 2nd edition is being held in theater at Cinema La Compagnia and online 21 - 24 October 2021. In 2021 UIFF presents 38 films from 29 countries touching on the exhileration, the pain the joys and the dangers of childhood).Dale Rutstein is the Chief of Communication for UNICEF Innocenti and Coordinator of the UNICEF Innocenti Film Festival  which showcases cinema narratives of childhood from all parts of the world. 
How do we balance children’s rights to participation and protection and the tensions this can create
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How is collaboration helping improve approaches to research involving children?

 Consortium on Ethical Research Involving Children (ERIC) continues to develop resources to help ensure children’s participation in research is respectful and safe.The influence of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) on research practice is now well recognized, particularly in relation to children’s right to participation. This has coincided with significant advances in childhood scholarship across geographies and disciplines — challenging assumptions about the legitimacy of children’s involvement. This movement has ushered in greater development and refinement of methods and tools to help ensure children’s participation is not only relevant and engaging, but also safe. Such shifts are promising, but do they guarantee the research that is planned, or undertaken, is ‘ethical’? And what do we mean by ‘ethical’ anyway, given the very diverse contexts for research involving children? How do we balance children’s rights to participation and protection and the tensions this can create? Do researchers and other stakeholders (funders, ethics review boards, parents/guardians) have ready access to the support, guidance and tools they need to reflect critically on these tensions and the ethical decision-making often required ‘in situ’ and at the start of, as well as throughout, the research process? These are the kinds of questions that inspired an international consortium to embark on an ambitious project, now widely known as ‘ERIC’ (the Ethical Research Involving Children project). The consortium comprised: the UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti;the Centre for Children and Young People (CCYP) at Southern Cross University, Australia;the Children’s Issues Centre (CIC) at the University of Otago, New Zealand; and,the Childwatch International Research Network. The initial aim of the consortium was to consider whether more could be done to translate the rights afforded to children under the UNCRC into a platform or framework to enhance the quality of research, ensuring respect for and protection of children and providing support for researchers across very diverse global contexts. In this blog we reflect on the journey of ‘ERIC’, where it began, where we are now, and where we would like to go next. From its inception, ERIC (Ethical Research Involving Children) has been an international collaboration. The seeds for the project were sown in conversations and meetings within the Childwatch International Research Network (comprising 50 global child research centres) during 2004-2011. Extensive research and consultation with the international research community then led to the launch of the ERIC resources in 2013 which included extensive print-based on online resources. Eight years on, the original ERIC compendium, which includes an ethics Charter and extensive guidance on specific considerations, challenges and questions that arise across diverse contexts, has been translated into 6 languages and the associated website is accessed in over 185 countries attracting on average 2000 visitors each month. The website now houses a growing bank of international case studies, an online interactive glossary and a specially curated library of the latest literature on ethical research involving children. It also includes an expert blog, with contributions from leading international scholars and others engaged in cutting-edge research involving children including, most recently, a contribution by young people themselves – members of the International and Canadian Child Rights Partnership Child and Youth Advisory Group. The ERIC website is now an active hub for researchers across all levels of experience, as well as other research stakeholders. ERIC has become the international ‘bible’ for ethical child research. It has evolved from the original idea of being a ‘go to’ repository of resources to an ongoing international conversation around some of the most vexed ethical issues researchers and others navigate as we all seek to balance children’s participation and protection rights in very different contexts. As longstanding partners, UNICEF, CCYP, CIC and CIRN are immensely proud of what ERIC has achieved, as evidenced by the sheer numbers of researchers accessing the website globally and the sharing of experiences, questions, concerns and stories about their engagement with research ethics.The initiative continues to attract funding as well as requests for presentations, training and other capacity building activities. ERIC is thriving and we remain committed to its continued evolution to meet future need. In exploring ‘what next’ we want to hear and know what practitioners and other stakeholders need, what are the supports that will help in their reflexive practice, how can we further build and support the community to undertake research in the challenging environments that children are growing up in? To this end, we are currently running ERIC’s first user survey for future support resources and directions. Keep up to date with ERIC via its dedicated social media channels (Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn), or join the mailing list here.Professor Anne Graham is Professor of Childhood Studies and Founding Director of the Centre for Children and Young People at Southern Cross University, Australia. She was one of the original initiators and founders of the Ethical Research Involving Children (childethics.org) programme and continues to co-lead the programme in partnership with the UNICEF Office of Research.Professor Nicola Taylor holds the Alexander McMillan Leading Thinker Chair in Childhood Studies and is the Director of the Children’s Issues Centre at the University of Otago, New Zealand. She was also one of the original initiators and founders of the Ethical Research Involving Children programme.
Children draw with items from a recreational kit for children affected by COVID-19 in Jombang, Indonesia, on 22 October 2020. The youngest learners missed an average of 106 days of school in 2020, more than any other level of schooling
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Why we can't afford to let early childhood education fall through the COVID-19 cracks

A few weeks ago, after his last day at kindergarten, my son wanted to show me his portfolio. Marveling at the delightful collection of drawings, crafts, photos and teacher notes, I couldn’t believe how lucky we are that he got to experience a full year of kindergarten, in spite of COVID-19.Since we moved to Florence, Italy, at the end of last summer for my work as a researcher with UNICEF Innocenti, we have been under some degree of restriction to contain the spread of COVID-19. Kindergartens have however, for the most part, stayed open.A drawing by Dita Nugroho's son.My nephews, who are the same age, but live in one of many cities around the world where pre-primary* schools have remained closed over the past year and a half, have not been so lucky. They tried different online kindergarten programmes with mixed results and had little to no real-life interaction with children their age. This contrast reflects what was happening around the world. A survey of 143 countries found that while pre-primary students in high-income countries lost fewer instruction days in 2020 than older students, the opposite was true in low-and-middle income countries.A new UNICEF Innocenti research brief, It’s Not Too Late to Act on Early Learning, which I wrote together with colleagues at UNICEF and Inter-American Development Bank, examines the cost impact of these closures, how countries are responding and what can be done to support this group of young children as they prepare to start primary school.Here are some key findings from the brief:#1: The cost of pre-primary school closures is significant…Pre-primary school children in low-and-middle income countries (LMICs) lost an average of 106 instruction days in 2020, more than the days lost in primary and secondary schools.A wide body of research tells us that quality early childhood education can have both short- and long-term impact on children’s futures – in schooling outcomes and beyond. Millions of children have and are missing out on this opportunity due to COVID-19 closures. A wide body of research tells us that quality early childhood education can have both short- and long-term impact on children’s futures – in schooling outcomes and beyond. Millions of children have and are missing out on this opportunity due to COVID-19 closures.Building on earlier work done by at the Inter-American Development Bank, the brief estimates the lost pre-primary school days in 2020 can cost at least $1.6 trillion globally in future earnings. Children in middle-income countries are likely to be the hardest hit because, like my nephews, they experienced longer closures. On average, the impact of pre-primary school closures in 2020 is equivalent to over 2.5 per cent of middle-income countries’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP), or close to two-thirds of average government expenditure on education among this group. In comparison, the impact on high- and low-income countries is estimated to be around 1 per cent of GDP on average.#2: … but pre-primary education is often left out of responses to COVID-19Although they missed out on more in-person learning days compared to older students, pre-primary students in low-and-middle-income countries were often left out of their countries’ responses to COVID-19. In 2020, the youngest learners were less likely to access distance learning during closures. When schools reopened, they were less likely to return to in-person learning. Countries were also less likely to be assessing learning losses and introducing remedial support measures at this level. And while many countries reported increased total spending for the education sector, this was less likely to be the case for the pre-primary sub-sector. It is important to note here the low starting point of spending at this level, with more than a third of countries investing less than 2 per cent of their education budgets on pre-primary education. Donor spending on the sub-sector is similarly low and prone to volatility. #3: It’s not too late to support the children who missed out on pre-primary learningA recent joint statement by UNICEF and UNESCO called for schools to be last to close and the first to reopen. The brief echoes this call, highlighting the high cost of inaction and limited degree of pre-primary students’ participation in learning continuity activities while schools are closed.Its first recommendation: Prioritize the reopening of pre-primary schools, so less children miss out on important early learning experiences.Reopening school doors alone, however, will not be enough. The children who missed out on pre-primary learning opportunities are not starting school on even footing compared to those before them. Addressing this gap in the early years of schooling will be easier and cheaper for education systems to do, before these children remain or fall further behind. The brief presents key lessons from programmes that have successfully prepared children who missed out on a full pre-primary program for school. Specifically, these were:accelerated programmes (usually run in the holiday period before primary school)bridging programmes (usually run just before or at the start of primary school)remedial programmes in the first two years of primary schoolThese were referred to as “transition programmes” in the brief, as they are often used while countries are preparing for or transitioning to universal pre-primary access. An accelerated curriculum can inform the development of full pre-primary curriculum and can also be harnessed to respond to future crises. Evaluations show that even short, low cost transition programmes can support children’s readiness for school. They can be led by trained teachers or volunteers, but ongoing supervision and support or coaching for educators is beneficial in either case and can be done by linking with existing systems. Engaging families and the local community can help reach the most vulnerable children and support programme sustainability. Many families around the world would share my family’s sentiment that we can’t forget about the young children, like my nephews, who missed out on pre-primary learning opportunities because of COVID-19. Luckily it is not too late nor impossible to help them catch-up. *Pre-primary education is defined as organized learning programmes for children aged 3 years and up to the start of primary education.Read the full reportWatch this webinar on prioritizing pre-primary education in school reopeningDita Nugroho is an education research consultant at UNICEF Innocenti, where she focuses on early childhood education. Follow Dita @ditanugroho13 on Twitter, and for more updates from UNICEF Innocenti, follow @UNICEFInnocenti.  
Sahrul Aini plays with her child at their home in East Lombok, Indonesia. Sahrul receives cash-based assistance from UNICEF, which she used to pay for the costs related to the birth of her child
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Do Cash Grants Increase Pregnancies? Evidence from Asia and the Pacific says “No”

A common fear among policymakers is that government-provided benefits for households with young children – including cash transfers – may increase incentives to have children, to gain or maintain program eligibility. This is a topic we’ve had our eyes on for some time through the Transfer Project.  By conducting reviews of evidence and in our own impact evaluations, we’ve found little evidence to support this narrative from cash transfer programming in low-and middle income countries (LMICs).Until recently, however, evidence to support this from the Asia and the Pacific region has been absent from the debate. As fertility rates, norms around childbearing, and poverty levels differ across regions, it is possible cash transfer impacts may differ as well. With support from the Social Protection Approaches to COVID-19: Expert Advice (SPACE) helpline, I recently took a deep dive into evidence from the Asia and the Pacific region. I was curious not only to read new studies, but also to draw out implications for program design, to help inform design of new COVID-19 related cash transfer programs in the region.How might cash transfers affect pregnancy dynamics?There are a number of ways cash transfers could potentially increase or decrease incentives to have children, especially among programs targeted explicitly to pregnant women or households with young children. Policymakers may fear benefits will increase pregnancies, in line with pro-family policies in high-income, low-fertility settings. However, in theory, the impacts of cash transfers on pregnancies and births are equally likely in the opposite direction. For example, using increased income from cash transfers, parents are able to invest in the health, nutrition and education of their existing children, potentially leading couples to prefer smaller family sizes. The use of family planning may increase among transfer recipients due to income effects or more frequent interaction with the health sector, reducing unplanned pregnancies and allowing safe birth spacing. In addition, recent evidence demonstrates that cash transfers are some of the most promising interventions to delay early marriage and pregnancy for adolescent girls and young women. Therefore, it is possible that total fertility rates may decrease as a result of cash transfer programs over the longer-term. These dynamics are likely to vary based on underlying poverty rates, fertility rates and access to services in a given setting.What does the evidence from Asia and the Pacific say?After reviewing existing published and grey literature, compiled through targeted searches and existing review papers, I found a total of five high-quality studies. These studies evaluated cash transfers targeting households with pregnant women or young children and also measured key pregnancy-related outcomes.What did the studies find? The evidence shows no increase in pregnancies due to cash transfers, and in several cases showed impacts in the opposite direction (e.g. increased birth spacing, delay in first birth).Studies from Indonesia show that the government’s Program Keluarga Harapan (PKH) increased birth spacing among women of reproductive age in the short-term, however had no impact on early fertility of girls and young women aged 16 to 21 exposed to PKH when they were school-aged.A study of the government of Myanmar’s maternal cash transfer pilot measured both current pregnancy and total number of pregnancies after 30 months of enrollment—finding no impacts on current pregnancy, fertility desires or use of family planning. However, a small reduction in total number of pregnancies since the start of the program was found in the ‘cash only’ group.A study of the government of the Pantawid Pamilyana Pilipino Program (4Ps) in the Philippines showed no impacts on total fertility rates after three years among women of reproductive age. A second study found a delay in age of marriage and first birth among women in their early twenties who lived in recipient households of 4Ps for a short period when they were in their teens. This evidence showing no link between cash transfers and increased pregnancy is particularly policy relevant, given all programs were government run and often reach the poorest women and households. In addition, evaluations reported a host of beneficial outcomes for children, ranging from child nutrition and dietary diversity, to better schooling outcomes. Programming practicalities and the way forwardTaken together, evidence suggests a number of practical considerations for programs to both maximize wellbeing impacts for maternal and child health, as well as reduce potential unintended consequences:Pregnancy-related conditions: While there has been speculation about program designs enforcing pregnancy-related conditions in program eligibility (i.e. making benefits conditional on limiting additional pregnancies or total number of children per woman), others have noted the ethical dangers of such an approach. Conditions may “undermine women’s and couples’ rights to autonomy and reproductive freedom and may translate into dangerous unintended consequences”, which may include “hiding children, not seeking necessary preventative care and health check-ups for children, or, at the extreme, infanticide.” Assuming a wealth-fertility gradient, conditionalities based on limiting number of children will also exclude the most vulnerable women and households. Therefore, given there is little evidence of pregnancy increases in the first instance--it is recommended programs remain free of these types of explicit pregnancy-related conditions.Messaging and labeling: Program design should consider if a labeled cash transfer or messaging campaign could serve program objectives. This could include labeling the cash as funds for maternal and infant health, or providing messages at pay points or via community structures around the importance of children’s education or family planning. For example, a study in Zambia found that giving men messages quantifying risk of maternal mortality and morbidity led them to reduce fertility desires and communicate more about family planning, corresponding with a fall in their wives’ pregnancy rates. Messaging should also clearly lay out criteria for eligibility and programming, to both beneficiaries, as well as other community members to avoid misinformation.Transfer value and duration: A meaningful transfer value is a key factor in enabling improvements in poverty and broader welling for children and families. However, there may be subtle ways to defusing potential adverse effects via transfer design. For example, capping benefits to a maximum number of children per household – or calculating benefits at a household level could help delink benefit value to new pregnancies and births. Alternatively, expanding the child age range eligibility to 17 years—so caregivers are not worried about children “aging out”—may support families in the longer-term, defusing the need for them to ‘re-qualify.’Health infrastructure investments: Governments should seek to combine investments in cash transfers with improvements to health infrastructure and systems strengthening, including strengthening the quality and accessibility of pre- and post-natal care, family planning and other maternal health services. Studies have hypothesized the key role of these services in influencing positive pregnancy-related outcomes for women and families. If couples desire smaller families over time, but are not able to access family planning, or continue to experience adverse birth outcomes, reducing family size may not be possible.Rigorous evidence refutes the narrative that cash transfers produce increase pregnancies in LMICs, including from five recent studies of government-run programming in Asia and the Pacific. Building on momentum to date, I’m eager to see continued evolution of programs incorporating gender-responsive designs—focusing on promoting wellbeing of women, children and families—rather than on unintended consequences that are not evidence-informed. Finally, as a researcher, I’d be remiss without recommending the continued study of impacts of cash transfers on pregnancy outcomes, including use of family planning and safe transitions to adulthood, in the Asia and Pacific context and beyond.  Amber Peterman is a Research Associate Professor at UNC Chapel Hill and a consultant to UNICEF Innocenti focusing on gender and social protection.*** This work is based on the brief Do Child Grants Lead to Increased Pregnancies? An Evidence View from Asia and the Pacific, developed with support from Social Protection Approaches to COVID-19: Expert Advice (SPACE) - a joint initiative of FCDO’s Better Assistance in Crises (BASIC) and Gender Responsive Social Protection (GSP) programmes (funded by UKAid); GIZ (funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development); and the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Helpful comments were received by Juliet Attenborough, Abigail Bakker, Ric Goodman, Lisa Hannigan, Ginevra Jarmaine, Rachel Payne, Jacqui Powell, Dominic Richardson, John Rook and Kathleen Sullivan. SPACE materials including this blog do not necessarily represent FCDO, or GIZ or DFAT’s own views or policies or commit FCDO, GIZ or DFAT to any particular course of action. The author reports no conflicts of interest.
The power of play in the pandemic
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The power of play in the pandemic

Play is key for child development and the mental health of children and caregivers.Play is an essential part of development in the early years. Play is the way young children from birth to three  learn, as they  explore and begin to make sense of the world around them. Research shows that play supports many interrelated facets of development including cognitive, physical, social, emotional and language development in young children, setting the foundation on which new learning builds  throughout a child’s life.  Through play, young children develop social connections, which help regulate emotions, enhance self-esteem and empathy, and even improve the immune system! Playful interactions with parents help children develop their social-emotional skills, including how to manage their emotions and be in relationship with others – important for future emotional health and lifelong skills development.Recent research also shows that playful interactions with young children contributes to parental well-being and positive mental health. This is key, as we know that parental mental health is an essential driver of optimal child development. Parents who struggle with their own mental health tend to be less responsive to their children’s cues and might find it difficult to provide nurturing and responsive care. When parents engage in meaningful play with their children, they are not only supporting their child’s development but also improving  their own emotional well-being.  A recent study in Pakistan found that mothers who engaged in a parent-child play activity with their children over a 10-week period had a decline in depressive symptoms.This evidence doesn’t just come from research studies – parents themselves report that playing with their children makes them feel good. In 2018 the LEGO Play Well report found that 9 in 10 parents say play is fundamental to their own happiness and makes them feel more relaxed, energized, and creative. It also found that play has positive effects on family life, with ninety percent of parents saying play strengthens family relationships and helps them get to know their children better.Now, more than ever, we must leverage the power of play to promote parental mental health and child developmentA home-visiting nurse uses the Caring for the Caregiver approach in Serbia as part of the UNICEF-LEGO Foundation Playful Parenting programmeFor many caregivers, playful interactions with children have never been more important than in the current moment when both child development and parental mental health and well-being are at risk given the consequences of global COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the pandemic, parents and caregivers have had to manage increased financial, personal, and professional stressors.  It has become clear that the stressors of the pandemic, coupled with social isolation, have had a negative effect on the mental health and wellbeing of parents as they try to navigate a new ‘normal’  for themselves and their families.While it may seem difficult to find the time or energy for engaging in playful experiences, here are the ways that just a little play time can support well-being and development:Firstly, as parents contend with the multiple challenges they are facing during the pandemic, engaging in meaningful play activities with their children can improve their mental health and well-being. It’s true that during stressful periods, it can be hard to feel like playing, or prioritize the time for play. However it is during these times that play is most needed. Singing, dancing, and playing games together are good stress relievers, and are a great way for both children and caregivers alike to have fun even in the midst of stressful situations.Secondly, play can also strengthen positive parent-child interactions, which are key for young children’s development. This is particularly important in light of lockdowns and childcare closures which have left children isolated from their friends and peers. Aschildren’s first playmate, parents can continue to provide opportunities for early learning and social connection even while at home. Play also empowers and builds confidence for children and caregivers alike. By playing with their parents, children can learn they are loved, important and fun to be around. By playing with their children, parents can have fun, and be reminded of their unique ability to provide their children with comfort, connection, and love. Even in stressful times, these positive parent-child interactions can lay a foundation for social-emotional skills development and mental health that will last into the future.Finally, as the COVID-19 pandemic enters its eighteenth month, play is also an important way of protecting children from the negative impacts of prolonged exposure to stress. The Harvard Centre for the Developing Child considers exposure to prolonged adversity a source of toxic stress, which can have serious negative impacts on both physical and mental health across the lifespan. Supportive, stable relationships with adults can buffer children from stress and protect their development, even in adversity.As part of its current partnership, UNICEF and the LEGO Foundation have developed the Playful Parenting and Responding to the Crisis of Care and Learning programmes. These programmes support countries around the world to improve the capacity of frontline workers and provide timely support and information in order to promote the mental health and emotional well-being of parents so they can provide nurturing care and engage in playful interactions with their young children.As part of this initiative, a new training package for frontline workers called Caring for the Caregiver (CFC) has been created, in collaboration with the University of the Witwatersrand and Harvard University. It is being validated in eight countries and will be ready for global roll-out in the second part of 2021.The CFC approach uses activity-based learning to promote emotional awareness and self-care, encourage partner and family support, develop strategies to deal with conflict, and learn problem-solving skills, particularly in contexts of high levels of adversity.“I was stressed, but thanks to the community health worker’s advice … I have mental stability … my child is becoming more and more open to interacting, which brings me joy.” – Mother, Koutiala Cercle Nutrition support, Pilot of Caring for the Caregivers, Mali 2018As illustrated below, play is a core element of the approach:Dealing with emotions and stressRisk of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and thoughts of self-harm may be elevated for caregivers during the pandemic, especially for those with pre-existing problems. Engaging in fun activities and play can trigger the release of endorphins, the body's natural feel-good chemicals!Family conflict strategiesFamilies that regularly interact with each other in positive, playful ways can build strong bonds that can help them deal with and diffuse conflict when it arises within the family. This is especially important during the pandemic, when violence against both caregivers and children has been on the rise globally.Strengthening interactions and relationshipsAs part of its “connect” component, CFC uses play to strengthen the quality of child-caregiver interactions and relationships, which in turn helps both to strengthen their resiliency and coping skills and foster optimal child development.RoutinesCFC helps families create a nurturing environment where children and family members engage in learning though play as part of regular everyday activities while also encouraging a balanced sharing of caregiving and domestic responsibilities among caregivers.When the pandemic began in early 2020, there was an immediate need for messages, activities, and strategies to support caregiver mental health. To meet this need, a new guide, entitledCaring for the Caregiver during the COVID-19 Crisis, provides evidence-based messages, practical guidance, case studies and resources that can be used to promote parents’ and caregivers’ mental health during the COVID-19 crisis and recovery period.The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly left a mark on every parent, and the Caring for the Caregiver program has come at the right moment. As the trusted professionals and friend of the family, we can learn about the mental health needs of the family and provide first line listening support and advice. - Home visiting nurse, Novi Sad, SerbiaThere is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for parents and children alike. UNICEF and the LEGO Foundation remain committed to continue to support parents and children during the crisis to ensure that this generation of young children not only survive but also thrive.
Parental Leave Limbo: Childcare Challenges and the Potential for Policy Progress
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Parental Leave Limbo: Childcare Challenges and the Potential for Policy Progress

Where childcare policies are failing parents and what countries can do to fix itAs I transition back to work after six months of maternity leave, I can’t believe my timing during the launch of a major new UNICEF report Where Do Rich Countries Stand on Childcare?Published by UNICEF’s Office of Research – Innocenti, where I work, the report ranks countries across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union (EU) based on their national childcare and parental leave policies. Childcare and leave policies in these 41 countries have been compared and graded on the accessibility, affordability and quality of childcare for children between birth and school age. Using the most recent comparable data on policies for these countries, the report ranked Luxembourg, Iceland, Sweden, Norway and Germany the highest on childcare provisions among high-income countries and ranked Slovakia, the United States, Cyprus, Switzerland, and Australia the lowest.As I return to work now, I find myself in the middle of an unfortunate gap between when my maternity leave ended and when accessible, affordable childcare options become available. In Italy, where I live and work, accessible childcare options (such as daycare) become available when babies are about 12 months old, leaving me in an awkward childcare limbo – a half year gap that, without the option of family members to help me out nearby, I can only fill with a relatively expensive private nanny.Like colleagues before me, in order to fill the gap between when my maternity leave ends and affordable childcare becomes available, I’m having to cobble together a mix of annual leave, help from grandmothers who live in other countries, as well as employing private nannies at up to four times the cost of even the most expensive daycares in Italy. But I know I am not alone in this challenge. Many working parents have accepted this as their reality as even in rich countries, no other options exist for them and no policies are in place to protect them.In UNICEF Innocenti’s report, while Italy ranks #1 for affordability among rich countries for childcare, it ranks #15 overall when you also consider childcare access and quality, as well as its parental leave policies. I feel the effects of how well these policies support parents and children every day as a mother.“This report helps to quantify and magnify just where and how childcare and parental leave policies can have a positive impact on both child wellbeing as well as gender equality and the economy, with more women able to return to the workforce when better policies are in play.In the report, the United States, where I’m originally from, unsurprisingly and tragically ranks second-to-last overall for its childcare policies, taking into account that despite being one of the wealthiest countries, it has no paid parental leave, and affordability and access are very low. As an American living and working abroad, I feel privileged to be employed by an organization that provides paid maternity leave for six months, living in a country where affordable, quality childcare is available from the age of one year – two extremely helpful benefits protected by effective policies, that would have been unavailable to me entirely if I were living in my home country. But, as I’ve discovered, no system is perfect, and this report helps to quantify and magnify just where and how childcare and parental leave policies can have a positive impact on both child wellbeing as well as gender equality and the economy, with more women able to return to the workforce when better policies are in play.As my family is also Swedish, I would have had the option, if we wanted to, to start a family in Sweden, where I could have benefited from more than a year and a half of maternity leave (not counting the generous paternity leave reserved only for fathers). This parental leave policy nicely aligns with when most daycare centers are available, free of charge. It’s not surprising to me that Sweden ranks third in the report given its generous package of parental leave combined with access to free formal childcare right when the basic leave entitlement ends.Despite my privileged access to these policies, I have chosen, like many others, to pursue a career elsewhere. Knowing how these three systems compare and contrast has indeed shaped decisions we’ve made about where and how we live and plan to raise our children.  I am fortunate to have the choice to pursue a career outside of my home country and that, as a family, we can afford to find and pay for other childcare scenarios to fill these gaps, but many, many families around the world – even in rich countries – do not have the same opportunities.It is time to close these gaps and find solutions that work for every parent regardless of their job, where they live, or their gender. Now is the time to urge policymakers in every country to do better for mothers, fathers and every child to provide better parental leave policies combined with mandates for better childcare access, quality and affordability.UNICEF Innocenti’s report makes nine policy recommendations to better support parents and children:Provide a suitable mix of paid maternity, paternity, and parental leave for mothers and fathers.Leave should be both gender-sensitive and gender-equitable to ensure neither parent is overburdened with home care.Leave should be inclusive and granted to those in non-standard forms of employment or training.Align the end of leave with availability of childcare to ensure there are no gaps in childcare support.Make accessible, flexible, and affordable quality childcare available to all parents.Publicly provided childcare can facilitate access for low-income families.Invest in the childcare workforce to encourage the highest possible standards.Encourage employers to support working parents through paid leave entitlements, flexible work arrangements, and childcare support systems.Provide leave policies and childcare services with family policies (e.g. child benefits) to reduce the risk of social inequalities being replicated in public childcare settings.Join me in daring to demand that parents and children deserve better. Contact your lawmakers to fight for change for every child.Read the full report.Explore the report microsite.Listen to a podcast with the report author, Anna Gromada.Kathleen Sullivan is a communication specialist at UNICEF Innocenti who is passionate about finding narratives that drive change. Follow Kathleen @ksulli on Twitter, and for more updates from UNICEF Innocenti, follow @UNICEFInnocenti.
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