Save the Children in Ethiopia

It’s More than Luck

By Zewge Abate

Internal Communications Manager, Save the Children in Ethiopia

Mebrit, 32, has four children and lives in a small village in Central Tigray, in northern Ethiopia. Being a mother is tough in her community, where families are largely dependent on subsistence farming. In addition to the daily care of the house chores – including but not limited to cooking, cleaning, looking after the children and washing clothes – mothers also help their husbands with farming activities such as sowing and weeding. 

 

Save the Children in Ethiopia
Mebrit learning about parenting with Community Health Worker, Medhin

There is a saying in Ethiopia that “luck is what determines a child’s development” and most community members perceive this as the truth towards child development. Mebrit always thought she was doing her very best to help her children grow well. Like all mothers in her community, she carried them on her back while doing the house chores and running errands, fed them as well as she could and love them so much. But since March 2018, when she started taking part in Save the Children‘s trainings for mothers with young children, she realized, “There is much more to what I was doing as a mother.”

Mebrit said her one-year-old baby, Helen, “is the luckiest because I apply my knowledge from those sessions to support her to grow physically and mentally.”

Something that Mebrit learned from the early learning trainings for parents was how to use the items she has available, such as corks, to make learning into a game for little Helen, and help her make sense of the world.

Now, she also talks to Helen more than she used to. “Even if she does not understand what I say, talking to Helen and telling her stories contributes to her future linguistic skills.”

Save the Children in Ethiopia
Mebrit teaching her youngest daughter Helen with household items

Mebrit teaching her youngest daughter Helen with household itemsLittle Helen was able to walk on her own a little before she turned one in August, and Mebrit told me, “Neither her sister nor her two brothers were able to walk until after they turned one because I didn’t help them the way I helped Helen, holding her hands and always encouraging her to move.”

Early learning and parenting program, provided through Save the Children’s child sponsorship program, has changes children and parents’ lives in over 50 villages or kebeles, in the local Amharic language.

“[Before, I] sometimes shouted at them when they messed up,” Mebrit said, remembering how her relationship with her children has changed since the trainings. Having attended seven early learning sessions so far, she now makes sure that all the time she spends with Helen is spent playing and helping her thrive. 

Medhin, a local health worker that supports sponsorship’s programs in Mebrit’s community, shared “I am very happy to see mothers actively engage in playing with and helping in their children’s physical and cognitive development.” Specifically for Mebrit, Medhin said, “I can definitely say little Helen has grown super active because of her mother’s regular early learning activities.”

Thanks to sponsors, Save the Children in Ethiopia is improving the growth and development of children in Central Tigray during their first 1000 days of life, by enhancing their connections and bonding with their caregivers through developmentally appropriate play and communication boosters.

Photo credit: Ellery Lamm/Save the Children

Logging Reading Minutes with Save the Children’s 100 Days of Reading Campaign

Written by Sara Neumann, Director, Media & Communications, U.S. Programs 

 

Summer is my favorite season – more sunshine, time with family and friends, trips to the beach and of course, summer reading! I’ve always loved to read for pleasure – books can take you anywhere. I’m so excited that this summer, I can log my summer reading minutes as part of Save the Children’s 100 Days of Reading campaign and help children across rural America through September 8, World Literacy Day.

Literacy has always been a cornerstone of the programs we provide in the United States and around the world, and in celebration of our 100th anniversary, Save the Children has launched our inaugural summer reading campaign. Called Read A Story, Change Their Story, the campaign encourages all children, parents, teachers, librarians, caregivers, adults, and more to log their summer reading minutes at SavetheChildren.org/READ. Participants can positively impact the lives of children growing up in rural America who do not have adequate access to early learning or children’s books, while also promoting literacy in all communities.

The summer slide can affect any child, not just those growing up in poverty. Children’s summer learning experiences during their elementary school years can impact their success in higher grades, including whether they graduate from high school and even move onto college. Reading just 20 minutes a day can have tremendous impact on children – and adults – of all ages.

As a young girl, I loved the library and my elementary school librarian, Mrs. Pezzullo, in particular. She would always have a stack of recommendations waiting for my nearly daily trips. In fact, when I was little, a school librarian was my dream job. And last week, I was transported back to my elementary school days when my 6-year-old niece Lily pulled The Phantom Tollbooth off of my bookshelf. It was one of my most favorite books from childhood, but to re-read the classic alongside Lily has brought me such joy – and perspective – to talk about how we’re both imagining Milo and Tock’s trip to Dictionopolis and beyond. There were so many new words that we were inspired to buy Lily’s first children’s dictionary – my collegiate version was just a little complicated. She’s home now, but we’re continuing our adventure via FaceTime – we’re just arriving at Digitopolis with the Humbug in tow!

Reading is powerful. It changes lives. It grows minds. It informs you of the world around you, and helps you think differently, too. Since the campaign began, I’ve logged 4,400 minutes to help children in need. Will you join me?

Check out the incredible resources provided by our awesome partners – like coloring pages and reading lists and activities – to keep the fun going!

Photo credit: Charlie Forgham-Bailey / Save the Children, Oct 2018

Getting to 2030 Vision to End Preventable Child and Maternal Deaths: Building on the global progress for women and children

Written by Smita Baruah, Senior Director, Global Health and Development Policy, Save the Children

Children today have a better chance than any time in history to grow healthy, be educated and be protected, as noted in Save the Children’s latest report, Changing Lives in our Lifetime: Global Childhood Report. Today there are 49 million fewer children stunted, a form of malnutrition that impacts a child’s ability to survive and thrive than two decades ago. There are 4.4 million fewer child deaths than they were in the year 2000.

These successes are not by accident.  Strong and increased political leadership at both global and national level have greatly contributed to changing the lives of women and children around the world in addition to scaling up of proven interventions and innovation.

The United States is one donor government who deserves much credit for accelerating progress on women and children’s health, beginning with its leadership at the first child survival resolution in 1982 through hosting the Child Survival Call to Action meeting in 2012 that set the stage for the vision to end preventable child and maternal deaths by 2030.

Critical Role of US Leadership in Reducing Maternal and Child Deaths
Last month, USAID launched its 5th annual progress report, Acting on the Call: A Focus on the Journey to Self-Reliance for Preventing Child and Maternal Deaths.  The report notes that in 2018 alone, USAID helped reach 81 million women and children access essential — and often life-saving — health services. USAID’s contributions have led to significant reductions in child mortality in many countries such as in Bangladesh where child deaths were reduced by 63% since 2000 and in Uganda, which experienced a 66% in reduction of child deaths during the same time period.

The report demonstrates the ways in which USAID has also helped increase national political will. Since the Child Survival Call to Action forum in 2012, governments in more than half of USAID’s priority countries for maternal and child survival have increased their domestic budgets for health.  In Uganda, for example, USAID worked with the Ministry of Health to increase the percentage of the allocated budget for health from 79% to 97%. 

Bangladesh, a USAID maternal and child health priority country, is an example of how donor assistance coupled with national political will, creates change for women and children. According to the Global Childhood Report, Bangladesh has had a sustained commitment to improving child health despite changing leadership. With donor and their own investments, Bangladesh has focused to strengthen health systems and scale up proven solutions for mothers, children and newborns with a focus on equity. However, focusing on health interventions alone did not contribute to Bangladesh’s success.  Women and girls’ education and empowerment are also key factors driving progress as well as the engagement of civil society, including children and young people.

Getting to 2030
In 2015, the United States and other world leaders and stakeholders committed to a set of global goals which includes the ambitious goal of ending preventable and child and maternal deaths by 2030. There is indeed much to celebrate.  To continue on the path to achieve the global goal of ending preventable child and maternal deaths, U.S. and other stakeholders must continue to focus on continuing to invest in maternal and child survival programs and designing and implementing highest-impact evidence based interventions. 

This also includes investing more resources in areas that are becoming the greatest contributions to child deaths: newborn health, pneumonia and addressing malnutrition.  Without increased focus on malnutrition, Save the Children’s report notes that in 2030, 119 million children will still find their physical and cognitive development stunted by malnutrition, with the poorest children at highest risk. Addressing pneumonia must also be prioritized. According to the Global Childhood Report, childhood pneumonia is the leading infectious cause of deaths in children under age 5 and it kills more children than diarrhea, malaria and HIV combined.

While much progress has been made in increasing national governments’ political will to reduce child and maternal deaths, resources must follow this commitment. The U.S. should work with national and local governments to continue to increase its own domestic investments in health, particularly for maternal and child survival interventions. This also includes working with national and local governments in ensuring that these resources are reaching the hardest to reach populations. Women and children who are furthest behind must be identified and prioritized in terms of investments, service provision and decision making. US should also work with governments to ensure that all women and children, especially excluded women and children, are counted to measure progress towards reducing child and maternal deaths. 

Going beyond just working with the Ministries of Health is critical.  U.S. and other stakeholders must continue to engage local civil society in the efforts to change the lives of women and children. In Ethiopia, for example, Kes Melakeselam Hailemnase, a 64 year old Orthodox Priest and head of Embaalaje Woreda Orthodox Churches Forum, reached more than 8.000 individuals with maternal, child, newborn health messages during regular sermons and other religious festivities after receiving training on Community Based Newborn Care, organized for faith-based leaders.  Kes’ efforts helped Abeba Mesele, a 21 year old mother of two, learn the importance of going to a health facility for antenatal check up and early post natal check ups.  

Change often happens at the local, community level. As USAID works with countries in their journey to self-reliance, development plans must be made in consultation with recipient country governments and civil society.  To ensure sustainability and self-reliance, development must be owned by the people of the countries receiving foreign assistance.

As the 2019 report shows, USAID has greatly contributed to building in country capacity by training health professionals including community health workers. This may not be enough. With increased natural disasters and the resurgence of pandemic threats such as Ebola, U.S. should work with governments and other stakeholders in helping to build resilient health systems. 

Finally, continued U.S. partnership and assistance is critical to a country’s success in improving the lives of women and children around the world. USAID should maintain evidence-based, highest-impact interventions and a comprehensive approach to addressing maternal and child survival and continue to provide robust resources.

Photo credit: Susan Warner / Save the Children

Taxation with Representation: Citizens as Drivers of Accountable Tax Policy

Written by Andrew Wainer, Director, Policy Research  and Sadie Marsman, Research Assistant
Photography credit: Susan Warner / Save the Children

Protests by citizens against their government’s tax systems have not just occurred across cultures and centuries, but have led to revolutions.

In 18th century America, for example, the British crown’s assertion of its right to tax colonists without consent led to the Boston Tea Party and, eventually, the American Revolution. “No taxation without representation” is perhaps that revolution’s most famous slogan. Since then, it’s been played out in countless other parts of the globe.

Throughout history, taxation has been controversial and often dramatically contested. Yet today it is accepted as one of the primary ways for governments to increase domestic revenue in order to better meet the basic needs of citizens.

Save the Children’s new report, Taxation with Representation: Citizens as Drivers of Accountable Tax Policy, analyzes the evidence on citizen tax advocacy in developing countries in order to garner insights, and identify trends, on how civil society organizations (CSOs) contribute to accountable and progressive tax policies within the framework of equitably financing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The report, being launched this week in Berlin at a meeting of the Addis Tax Initiative, is intended to:

  • Provide additional guidance to policymakers seeking to support pro-development and accountable DRM in developing countries, and
  • Contribute to the growing evidence base on the role of CSOs in tax policy

A Tax and Governance Virtuous Circle?
Tax policy isn’t just about tallying revenue collection numbers and tax-to-GDP ratios. It’s also about ensuring revenue collection is pro-development, and contributes to enhanced governance. A broad representation of citizens’ voices must be included in that tax policy’s development and execution including marginalized and vulnerable groups.   

To create a tax system that is representative of broad societal goals, factors such as gender, ethnicity, geography and language must all be considered. While technical experts should, and will, continue to play a central role in tax policymaking, domestic resource mobilization (DRM) will fail to achieve its potential as a key source of finance to achieve development goals if it’s pursued without citizen input, and without prioritizing equity.

With this in mind, the report analyzes a series of cases in the research and policy literature on civil society engagement in tax policy at the national and subnational levels. The goals of our analysis are to illustrate what has worked and what is needed to support citizen engagement for more accountable tax policies.

 Citizen Engagement at the Subnational Level: Burundi
A 2014 World Bank study in Rutegama, Burundi, found that fostering partnerships between civil society and local administrators was necessary for successful citizen engagement, given the low levels of civil society capacity and state administrative capacity in fragile contexts.

Capacity building had to happen with citizens and the state, together.

World Bank researchers found that, “Within the Burundi context [it]…must be done in tandem with encouraging state developmental responsiveness.” In Burundi, as in other instances analyzed in the report, international donors–in this case primarily the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) – facilitated the decentralization process, encouraging engagement between CSOs and local fiscal officials.

In Rutegama, the municipal administrator created a partnership with local civil society, in which they were involved in discussions on budget and tax collection. Burundian law facilitated more equitable participation of women because gender balance is enshrined in law at both the local and national levels.

For example, communes in Burundi are governed by a council of 15 members that must also reflect a degree of gender balance (by law, at least 30% must be women).

For its part, matching the local government commitment, civil society raised awareness among taxpayers on the links of taxation to public expenditure. At the time, the public already had access to budget expenditures, but many citizens were unable to read the documents in French or make sense of the budget’s complicated format, so additional taxpayer education was conducted.

Due to the government’s commitment to transparency and social accountability, and gender equality, citizens placed more trust in their government and were more willing to pay taxes. After the program was implemented in 2010, Rutegama experienced increasingly larger revenue collections each year for the next three years.

Recommendations
Based on the analysis of the country cases, the report presents recommendations on how to support citizen engagement in DRM including:

  • Support subnational-to-national links through donor DRM programming. Donors can build national-level civil society tax advocacy through supporting more developed subnational work. Local level civil society advocacy can be foundational for building broader national campaigns and serve as the training ground for tax policy advocacy.
  • Support government and civil society co-design of tax policy. Engaging civil society and governments together – particularly at the local level – has a track record of success. The citizen-state compact can be strengthened when capacity needs are addressed together, rather than only building the capacity of government.  Confrontations between citizens and government tend to occur when there is no platform to engage on tax issues.
  • Engage in the full budget cycle. Over the last decade, civil society organizations across the world have advocated for effective and equitable provisions of services through the budgeting process. In so doing, they have gained expertise as well as become agents of change able to influence budget allocations at all levels of government. Combining tax advocacy, with budget advocacy, civil society can be more effective in advocating for accountable and equitable revenue collection and spending on public services

To ensure that a tax policy is pro-development, and contributes to enhanced governance and social inclusion, a broad representation of citizens’ voices must be included.  Otherwise, DRM will fail to achieve its potential as a key source of finance for development around the world. We look forward to presenting that case to our ATI partners this week in Berlin.