Early Childhood (IP), understood as the period of life from 0 to 6 years old, is the decisive stage for the development of boys and girls. This is because in these first years of life, human beings develop most of their brain and neural connections, but also our immune, cardiovascular and respiratory systems. That is why this period is so decisive for our health throughout life, as well as for our cognitive and emotional development. On these foundations we build our ability to learn, to solve problems and to relate to others.
Despite the importance of this stage, early childhood is one of the most vulnerable population segments. According to UNICEF, in Latin America and the Caribbean, child poverty is 36%, double that of adult poverty. The pandemic affected children in the region to a greater extent, who were affected by the deepening of inequalities, the drastic reduction in access to care services, initial education, nutrition and vaccination.
“At Fundación FEMSA we know that the future is built today. We are convinced that the first years of life are crucial for the development of a person and that this adds to the development of a community, for this reason, we focus on promoting public spaces with the perspective of children under six years of age and their caregivers. We know that, if we build with them, we contribute to the social fabric at the same time that we favor the development of the little ones.” Eva Fernández, Manager of Social Investment in Early Childhood.
Recognizing the need to work for the comprehensive development of IP, the FEMSA Foundation has been a prominent player in the region for the innovative work it has done on this issue. The Foundation seeks to transform Latin America, through the children of the region, generating a sustainable impact for present and future generations. To do this, one of its initiatives has been to rethink public spaces considering the needs of early childhood and their caregivers. They do this through generating and training knowledge, high-impact tactical urban interventions, and other innovative interventions to adapt and improve urban infrastructure.
A couple of years ago, the FEMSA Foundation adopted the Urban95 methodology, originally designed by the Bernard van Leer Foundation, whose objective is to design accessible and friendly public spaces from the perspective of a 95cm-tall child (approximately a 3-year-old child). old). It is an avant-garde strategy, since it focuses on the adaptation and construction of friendly public spaces for early childhood, recognizing that the development of boys and girls is highly influenced by external factors such as public space and by the relationships it builds with your caregiver in these spaces.
The FEMSA Foundation, in alliance with the Bernard Van Leer Foundation and the United Way have regionally implemented Urban95 in Chile, Colombia and Guatemala. The project contains participatory design, which consists of involving the community from the beginning, as well as the municipal authorities, so that the voice of the community is taken into account throughout the design process of the public space.
One of the most visible results of these interventions has been the change in the behavior of children and caregivers. Before implementing Urban 95 in the Chilean community of La Pintana, only 28% of caregivers spent time with children in public spaces and the time they spent together was 30 minutes. After the implementation of Urban95, 42% of the caregivers made use of the public space with the children and the time increased from 30 to 90 minutes. These results show the success of these interventions and highlight their cost-effectiveness.
The FEMSA Foundation understood that it is not enough to work only with boys and girls in their personal capacities, but that it must also strengthen the spaces in which boys and girls develop. This is how Eva Fernández, Manager of Social Investment in Early Childhood, puts it, “At Fundación FEMSA we know that the future is built today. We are convinced that the first years of life are crucial for the development of a person and that this adds to the development of a community, for this reason, we focus on promoting public spaces with the perspective of children under six years of age and their caregivers. We know that, if we build with them, we contribute to the social fabric at the same time that we favor the development of the little ones.”
Written by Beatriz Ospina, coordinator of Impact Communities in Latimpacto.