Promoting Men’s Engagement in Early Childhood Development - A Programming and Influencing Package

Manual and Guideline
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Plan International (PI) is an independent development and humanitarian organization that works to advance children’s rights and equality for girls in 54 countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Latin America. Early Childhood Development (ECD) is a priority programming area for PI. We work with a gender-transformative approach, leveraging the opportunities ECD programming and influencing offer to not only promote the rights of young girls and boys but also to promote gender equality; transform discriminatory gender norms, roles and relationships; and advance the rights and wellbeing of mothers and other female primary caregivers. In multiple countries, Plan facilitates strengths-based programming aimed at supporting caregivers, educators, service-providers and communities to provide the nurturing care that young girls and boys need for their optimal early years’ development.

Founded in 1997 in Brazil, Promundo believes that gender equality is a social good for the world and that overcoming gender inequalities and patriarchy and advancing gender equality is necessary for women, men, and individuals of all gender identities. We work on fatherhood and men’s caregiving to promote men’s equitable, non-violent participation as partners and caregivers to young children.
For more than two decades, we have conducted research, advocacy and developed programming to catalyse men’s capacity to care in gender equitable ways. We collaborate with partners around the world to transform social norms related to men’s caregiving, to prevent violence against women and children, and to contribute to positive maternal and child health outcomes.

For Plan and Promundo, promoting men’s engagement in ECD means: supporting abilities of male parents/caregivers to provide gender-responsive nurturing care to young girls and boys; strengthening positive relationships within the family, including non-violence, gender equitable decision making, and the redistribution of childcare and domestic work; increasing men’s involvement in young children’s learning and education, including through playful parenting; supporting men’s increased involvement with, and support for, the health and wellbeing of female partners, girls and boys; and working with communities and leaders to promote men’s caregiving roles, including through addressing gender norms that influence attitudes, expectations and behaviours for women and men.

We know that men’s engagement in the care and development of their young children is good for families and children, it’s good for female partners and it’s good for men themselves. But we also know that promoting and supporting men’s engagement in ECD is not easy. We must be aware of the potential risks and pitfalls, especially to those that undermine the autonomy and choices of women and girls.

Multiple barriers to men’s engagement exist as well, including norms and expectations about how men should behave and what they should and should not do; absence of males who role-model positive masculinities and ways of being; impacts of poverty, unemployment, urbanisation and migration, which often mean that men are not present or are unable to support their families; and services and policies that exclude men or do not provide an enabling environment for their engagement and support.

ECD programming and influencing that promotes men’s engagement provide a crucial entry point for challenging gender inequality, norms and roles that are limiting and discriminatory, particularly for girls and women, but also for boys and men.

Plan International and Promundo are proud to share this programming package. We hope that it will help individuals, organisations, communities, governments and policy makers to change the way that men protect, support and promote the wellbeing, health, and development of their partners and children, as well as bring benefits to men themselves.

Melanie Swan
Global Technical Lead
Early Childhood Development Network

Kate Doyle
Senior Program & Research Officer