The child in the family

Brazil: Making Rights Count - A Partnership with Families

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© UNICEF-Brasil/2001/Petrillo
Young parents receiving information and building their child care competencies

Brazil is a country of extraordinary geographic and cultural diversity. It is also a country of high levels of social and economic inequality. While Brazil has made significant progress in the last decade in primary education, the situation for young pre-school children remains particularly challenging. Government data indicates that that 88,000 children under age one die every year, while 75% of the poorest children under the age of six do not participate in any early childhood programme.

UNICEF Brazil recognized that supporting families is central to implementing the rights of the children aged 0 to 6 years of age, providing children with the best possible start in life.

The overall goal of the “Integrated Early Childhood Development” (IECD) programme of UNICEF Brazil is to assist in the implementation of the rights of all children aged 0-6 years and to guarantee a good start in life. In achieving this goal, the IECD programme focuses on three main actions:

  • supporting and strengthening the capacity of families to care for their young  children aged 0-6 with particular attention to pregnant women and children under one year of age
  • strengthening the capacity of municipalities to better respond to the needs of families with young children
  • increasing birth registration of children under one with special focus on communities and regions where inequities and disparities among the different segments of the local population are high 

In supporting and strengthening the capacity of families to provide holistic, integral care to their young children, UNICEF Brazil identified core family competencies applicable to all Brazilian families in a collaborative process that took 18 months.  The 28 identified competencies were validated through existing international research on family care practices that promote children’s survival, development, protection and participation.

The competencies can be loosely organizes into three categories:

  • interacting directly with the young child
  • organizing the family to care and advocate for the young child
  • strengthening family interactions with and promoting the organization of services to care for the integral needs of the young child

In addition to family competencies, a core set of “Municipal Competencies” has been developed to support families’ access to information and quality services.

The 28 family competencies were then translated into an interactive kit for families titled: “Strengthening Brazilian Families: A united action for integrated early childhood development”. This kit was developed in 2003 in collaboration with 29 key partners (Government, NGOs, and UN agencies). 

The kit contains five modules/flipcharts that cover the various phases of the early childhood life cycle:

  • pregnancy and pre-natal care
  • caring for 1 month old child
  • the 2-12 month old child
  • children aged from 1 to 3 years 
  • children 4-6 years of age 

Each flip chart addresses the rights of the child and her/his health, nutrition, psychosocial and protection needs.  The five modules were extensively tested in selected municipalities and with indigenous, Afro-descendent populations and in rural, urban and semi-arid areas of the country.

The core implementation strategy of the IECD programme is through a robust partnership between the government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This partnership is helping to build and strengthen the capacity of 300,000 Community Health Workers (CHW) and community leaders, as well as 120,000 preschool teachers in the use of the kit and the overall issues of rights based approach to child development. 

Through home visits and meeting with families, Community Health Workers and community leaders bring the contents of the kit into homes, as well as monitor and support families’ health and well being and strengthen the competencies of the families; all the while focusing on children aged 0-6. 

 In April 2004, Brazilian President Lula and UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy officially launched the IECD kit in Brazil. The Brazilian program aims to reach 10 million families by the end of 2006 through this program.

In all, the “Family and Municipal Competencies” project has created a framework for responding to the diversity of Brazilian families by ensuring an inter-sectoral and integrated collaboration to address issues as varied as the rights of the mother to prenatal care, the role of the family in supporting the nutrition, hygiene, protection issues facing the mother and the young child, as well as active family participation in early stimulation and learning of the young child. The “Family and Municipal Competencies” project has created the platform for a truly integrated approach to early childhood development.

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