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Focusing
on a positive impact

Let’s Be the Voice of Our Children

By Ahmed Lotfy

Universal Children's Day (November 20th) is a great chance for everyone to advocate, promote and celebrate children's rights, and come up with plans to build a better world for our children. It is the day when the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959

It’s no surprise that the early years of a child’s life are a critical window of opportunity to build the foundations of life-long skills and general health and well-being. In this blog, we will share with you the journey of two Johnson & Johnson (J&J) employees who were given the opportunity this year to support Early Childhood Development (ECD) in East Africa as part of the J&J Secondment Program to help address the challenges the region faces in creating sustainable and scalable ECD solutions.

Launched in 2014, the J&J Secondment Program provides J&J employees with a unique opportunity of long-term assignments (up to six months) to give back to society by leveraging their business skills and knowledge to address our NGO partners’ greatest needs. In J&J, our responsibility towards our societies is an integral part of Our Credo that defines who we are. We believe that we must help people be healthier by supporting better access and care, and that we must support good works and charities, better health and education for children around the world. We also recognize that these kinds of interventions can’t be tackled alone, and it’s through partnerships with NGO organizations such as the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), J&J has been able to help put children back on the universal agenda.

The AKDN operates as a network of private development agencies, covering a wide remit of sectors, including health and education, in some of the poorest countries in the world. For over 18 years, the J&J Foundation EMEA—which aims to support and champion those working on the front lines of health—has been partnering with the AKDN and together empowering communities in the developing world to improve local capacities in the areas of Nursing and Midwifery, ECD, and Community Health Care. To date, our partnership has supported ECD training to over 1,174 community health workers, 1,600 nurses and 18,000 mothers, fathers and caregivers. Subsequently, we’ve reached over 16,000 children.

ECD Challenges in Africa

 ECD encompasses physical, socio emotional, cognitive and motor development of children between 0-8 years of age. More than 85 percent of a child’s brain is developed by the time they are 6 years old.

Unfortunately, children in Africa are unlikely to access an ECD program, let alone one of (top) quality. To put it in perspective, according to a study done by UNICEF, in 2017 ECD gross enrolment rates in ECD programs were between 30-33% in Sub Saharan Africa, compared with 81% in East Asia & the Pacific, 75% in Central Asia & Europe, and 71% in North America. In the past 10 years, governments across East Africa have started to recognize the importance of ECD but still lack the resources and the strategy for efficient implementation. In this Video, Nurse Ephraim Ghithinji, explains his work in the early stages of life at the Mwik Medipoint Clinic in Kenya, focusing, in particular, on how poverty can impact children’s health.

Rupert Corbishley, Regional Education and ECD Advisor for the Aga Khan Foundation (East Africa) emphasized that “Today, the challenge for Africa is to provide quality ECD care and services to 130 million children under six. By 2050, 41% of all births worldwide will be in Africa dramatically increasing this number. Together these challenges can be understood, and solutions found for all.”

Tales from the Field (J&J Secondment Program graduates 2019):

Madelaine Holden: Innovation Activation Senior Manager- UK:

“During my 4-month Secondment in Kenya I looked at how the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) could expand the reach of its Madrasa Early Childhood Program (MECP) which offers professional development and training courses to new and practicing preschool teachers, and provides technical support to schools, civil societies, governments, and private organizations. I conducted a collaborative design process engaging principal stakeholders from MECP and AKF to develop a marketing and communication roadmap for the next 2-3 years. I also presented two workshops for MECP employees on the importance of clear and consistent branding. Some of my key learnings include:

  1. The importance of understanding the local culture when trying to improve ECD systems and trying to spread the word about critical programs.
  2. The importance of understanding the history of an organization and remembering to take a step back to look at the bigger picture before moving forward.

 

Evaluations have demonstrated the positive impact MECP has had on access and quality of pre-primary education, and on the educational outcomes of boys and girls. With such a strong foundation and the necessary tools, MECP is positioned to create impact at scale and be a regional leader in ECD.”   

Ahmed Lotfy: Sales Manager- UAE:

“In my 6-months Secondment with the Aga Khan University’s Institute for Human Development, I got a great opportunity to lead the strategic and business planning for the vision of establishing an international “Early Childhood Development Hub.” The Hub is intended to fulfill the Institute’s mandate to collaborate with entities across AKDN to enhance the quality of ECD programs and services. During my interaction with policy makers, academic staff, teachers, parents and children, I concluded that there are two main strategic challenges Africa is facing:

  1. Putting knowledge into action: There is a significant gap between the knowledge produced by academic researchers on the science of ECD and the practices of frontline workers who deliver services and interact with children on a daily basis.
  2. The sustainability of the ECD services and programs: The lack of country-level policies that are backed by sustainable financial strategies continues to limit both access and quality.

In my opinion, the Aga Khan University “ECD Hub”—once launched—will be a great platform for sustainable collaboration to catalyze globally informed, locally rooted, innovative and scalable ECD solutions.”

Our Children… Our Future

“The future of human society rests on the shoulders of our children. We better invest in the well-being of our children now or there is no future to talk about” says Dr. Kofi Marfo; Professor and Director of Aga Khan University Institute for Human Development.

Today, we all should support having a better future for our children and join the “Go Blue” initiative that is launched by the UN & UNICEF in order to: call on world leaders to commit to fulfilling the rights of every child, acknowledge that these rights are non-negotiable and build a world where every child is in school and learning, safe from harm and able to fulfill their potential. Visit the UNICEF website for more information about how you can participate in this important initiative.

Let’s #GoBlue and be the voice of our children!

Social Media

#TalentForGood

#MyCompany

#Purpose

#worldchildrensday

#GoBlue

#ECD

#Earlymomentsmatter

#nurturingcare

@MadelaineH0lden

@asamirlotfy

@JNJGlobalHealth

@JNJInnovation

@JLABS

@AKDN

@AKF_EA

@AKF_Global

@AKUGlobal

@PlanSShah

 

Sources

https://www.who.int/topics/early-child-development/en/

https://www.unicef.org/media/57941/file/%20A-world-ready-to-learn-2019.pdf