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Women - Motherhood - Early Childhood Development: exploring the question of how poor Roma women's status and situation influences children's survival, growth and development

© UNICEF

The potential of a "good start in life" to improve the current situation and future of poor and exluded Roma children is receiving more and more attention from those who work with and for poor Roma communities. However, early childhood develompent interventions for the Roma have tended to be directed to children alone, focusing on issues of access, desegregation, language of instruction and social justice in relation to preschool aged children, Considerably less attention has been directed to very early childhood, the period from birth to three, which is the most formative phase of human development and the stage when the human brain is developing most rapidly. Where they exist, parenting programmes have sought to "teach" or "give messages" to disempowered, malnourished and impoverished mohers without adequately recognizing their ability to internalize and act on the information. The voices from the field that one can "hear" in this paper clearly demonstrate that such an approach requires fundamental re-examination and that women's rights and roles need to be appropriately and sensitively factored into efforts to improve the sitation and development of young children, It is also evident from author's analysis, that specific attention needs to be paid to ensuring that women are not reduced to their instrumental, maternal funciton with regard to yong children, The intrinsic human rights of women as individuals and social actors if supported appropriately and comprehensively are likley to have a variety of positive outcomes for themselves, their families and especially, their young children.

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