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A media culture in Maldives — for and about children

One query that surfaces again and again in discussions among UNICEF and its programme partners in Maldives is “How do UNICEF’s ECD strategies and programmes translate into something that is doable and concrete?” In a country such as Maldives, with low infant and child mortality rates and high rates of literacy and school enrolment, the answer is to go directly to caretakers with simple information on child development — information that extends beyond issues of survival and towards the social, emotional, cognitive and spiritual development of the child.

The Maldives ECD project uses a multimedia approach to reach households in this archipelago of 1,200 tiny islands scattered over 90,000 sq. km of ocean. An important objective is to create a media culture in which children are told they are valued, regularly see themselves portrayed in the media, are encouraged to express themselves and have these expressions valued from infancy.

After conducting a baseline survey of existing knowledge, attitudes and practices, programme partners used the information in developing a variety of materials for children and their caretakers. The materials integrate child rights, with a focus on developing children’s confidence and self-esteem, as well as gender issues into ECD. Several of the prototype materials reverse gender stereotypes by portraying girls in active roles, boys performing household chores and men nurturing and caring for their children.

In addition to promoting the inclusion of children with disabilities in all their materials, the Maldives project is focusing on another often unacknowledged but highly important group: adolescents. The project provides older siblings with ways to help stimulate the development of their younger brothers and sisters while watching over them.

The Maldives project aims to raise the status of ECD so that it becomes a key indicator for assessing progress and development at the island, atoll and national levels.


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