Friday April 19, 2019

Your Children Might Be At Risk! According to UNICEF, 32 Nations Lack Policies to Support Families With Children

The report says that only 15 countries, including Cuba, France, Portugal, Russia and Sweden, have all the three essential national policies that support families with young children

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New York, September 23, 2017 : Thirty-two countries, having the world’s 85 million children under the age of five, do not have any essential policy that supports families with young children, a UNICEF report said.

According to the global body, 40 per cent of the 85 million children, live in just two countries – Bangladesh and the US. The report said that data from various countries including India was missing.

The report says that only 15 countries, including Cuba, France, Portugal, Russia and Sweden, have all the three essential national policies that support families with young children.

“We need to do more to give parents and care givers of young children the support they need during this most critical period of brain development,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, adding that if nations don’t invest now in the most vulnerable children and families, they will continue to perpetuate intergenerational cycles of disadvantage and inequality.

“Life by life, missed opportunity by missed opportunity, we are increasing the gap between the haves and the have-nots and undermining our long-term strength and stability,” said Lake.

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According to the report, Early Moments Matter for Every Child, two years of free pre-primary education, paid breastfeeding breaks during the first six months of a child’s life followed by six months of paid maternity leave as well as four weeks of paid paternity leave help lay a critical foundation for optimal early childhood development.

“These policies help parents better protect their children and provide them with better nutrition, play and early learning experiences in the crucial first years of life when the brain grows at a rate never to be repeated,” said the report.

Among the countries, which do not have any of the child or parent related policies are Algeria, Barbados, Bhutan, Brunei, Gambia and Kenya.

The report also highlights that millions of children under five years are spending their formative years in unsafe, unstimulating environments.

“Around 75 million children under-five live in areas affected by conflict, increasing their risk of toxic stress, which can inhibit brain cell connections in early childhood,” the report said.

“Globally, poor nutrition, unhealthy environments and disease have left 155 million children under five stunted, which robs their bodies and brains from developing to their full potential.”

It also mentioned that a quarter of all children between the ages of two and four years in 64 countries do not take part in activities essential for brain development such as playing, reading and singing.

“Around 300 million children globally live in areas where the air is toxic, which emerging research shows can damage children’s developing brains,” it said and added that the failure to protect and provide the most disadvantaged children with early development opportunities undermines potential growth of whole societies and economies. (IANS)

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UNICEF to Bring 11,000 Lower-Income South Africa High School Girls in Tech Industries

Women are woefully underrepresented in technology, science, engineering and mathematics jobs in South Africa

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UNICEF
Women are woefully underrepresented in technology, science, engineering and mathematics jobs in South Africa. But for the last decade, a homegrown, UNICEF-supported program has worked to bring 11,000 lower-income high school girls into these industries. VOA

Women are woefully underrepresented in technology, science, engineering and mathematics jobs in South Africa. But for the last decade, a homegrown, UNICEF-supported program has worked to bring 11,000 lower-income high school girls into these industries.

Among those students was Raquel Sorota. Sorota has come a long way from her humble upbringing in Johannesburg’s Tembisa township. She now works as a risk engineer at a top South African insurance company.

She was those one of those South African high school girls who went through the UNICEF-supported TechnoGirls program, which started in 2005. She was selected for the program in 2009. Now 24, she says it changed her life.

“My life has literally never been the same again,” she said. “So, before the program, I wanted to be a doctor and today I’m an engineer, through that program. So I think a lot of what I think I took from that program was how it exposed me to the world of engineering. I think for the longest time I never knew how broad that world was and that I could have a place in that world, most importantly.”

Bright, disadvantaged girls

The program selects bright high school girls from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, gives them exposure to professions in science, technology, engineering and math, pairs them with mentors, and follows them through their university studies.

The program’s founder, Staff Sithole, says this is about much more than creating a new crop of workers. This, she says, is about changing the world — and who runs it.

“It is more an instrument, or a program, which is contributing towards gender equality. So rather than just running advocacy programs, let’s come with something that can change the circumstances, can be a purposeful targeted intervention of contributing towards gender equality,” she said.

Challenging obstacles

For high school students Gugulethu Zungu and Queen Makaile, the obstacles are more than just lack of opportunity. Both are physically challenged; they were both born with different, rare genetic defects that have affected their appearance and their health. Both were chosen to participate in the program this year for their high grades in math and science.

Zungu says the program led her to identify her dream career — forensics — but also to expand her horizons.

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“I like investigating and solving mysteries. And it actually makes me believe that, indeed, nothing is impossible. You just have to think out of the box,” she said.

Makaile, who has struggled with hearing and vision problems as a result of her rare defect that has also given her asymmetrical facial features, says she now wants to be come a journalist, to show the world that her thoughts matter more than her looks. For these girls, nothing, they say, will stand in their way. (VOA)