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Sustainable future: Growing up together

10:05 13 de December de 2021 By Daniel Oiticica

Gabriela de Bukele – First Lady of El Salvador

There is no future if we do not take good care of children and teenagers. The formula to guarantee sustainable and permanent growth necessarily involves policies that prioritize this part of the population. In the following words, the First Lady of El Salvador explains actions that she has been leading to achieve the objective of guaranteeing a sustainable basis of progress

“In order to make a real and structural change in El Salvador, we must start by early childhood.”

Why have you decided to focus on the issue of children and pregnant women as the cornerstone of the Government’s social actions?
In order to make a real and structural change in El Salvador, we must start by early childhood. Early childhood is an unique time, because the foundations are laid for full and comprehensive growth. That is why it is so important! In addition, there is a historical debt  that we are going to compensate for. We will not let any more lost generations. To do this we are implementing a Policy to Support Early Childhood Development, called “Crecer Juntos” (Growing up Together) .

How was the “Growing up Together” policy to support early childhood development structured?
Growing up Together has been an articulated work from my Office with every government institutions, civil society, academies and the technical support of some international organizations and banks. In other words, it has a scientific basis and positive experiences, adapted to the Salvadoran reality. We are currently undergoing the implementation of some “Growing up Together” projects.

What are your biggest challenges in implementing this policy?
I consider that one of the biggest challenges is the change of vision. For years, governments have worked without looking  at children. Today, we are putting it at the center of everything. If we change the life of a boy or a girl, we transform a family, and therefore their entire country.

How does civil society respond to these actions?
We have had a positive, warm, supportive and with a high sense of co-responsibility response. Every time we talk about the Growing up Together policy and all the benefits for children, more people want to join and  work for Early Childhood.

How are the four axes of the policy integrated and what are the main actions?
The Growing up Together support policy to Early Childhood Development focuses on four main axes. The first axis is Health and Nutrition. It contemplates gestation, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and feeding, according to their needs. The second is Education and Care, which includes early stimulation, initial education, preschool education and a strong component of art and learning, through exploration and experiences. The third is Protection of Rights. So that no boy and no girl is left behind, we must guarantee certain conditions throughout the country. Only in this way can our childhood develop in an integral way. Finally, the fourth axis is Protective Surroundings and Environments. We are creating physical spaces for entertainment so that girls and boys can fully play, experiment, and grow.

What are the biggest goals and main objectives with the policy actions in the short and medium term?
The greatest goal of Growing up Together  is to enable children to reach their maximum potential during early childhood, so that no children are left behind. In the short term, a change in the birth of each Salvadoran babies through respected childbirth and a loving and sensitive care for the mother, her child, and the entire family. And in the medium term, greater coverage of Early Childhood care centers.

What are the main results that you have been able to verify in this short space of time after implementing these actions?
Most importantly, we have achieved awareness of officials, private companies, civil society and international organizations. They want to work for early childhood, they want to grow up with this project. There is also a new look at Salvadorans, with hope for the present and for children.

What is the importance of actions as large as this for a country that aims to attract foreign investment and people who believe and bet on its growth?
This Government is creating a new El Salvador, it is developing technology and renewable energy industries, among others. But for this new El Salvador, for these industries, we need Salvadorans to lead this country, this present and this future. For this reason, from early childhood we will develop the capacities and abilities that make girls and boys learn, lead and decide their future. We want to develop creative, sports, scientific and artistic industries. Be competitive internationally in all these new industries for our country.

What does the ‘Nacer con Cariño’ law mean for El Salvador?
The ‘Nacer con Cariño’ Law in El Salvador means a transformation in the life of every Salvadoran family. It is listening, respecting and looking after each mother, shaking their hands, holding their shoulder so that she can trust in herself, in what she is capable of doing and in this process. It is to give a warm and loving welcome to each Salvadoran. It is accompanying and preparing each family for the growth that they are about to experience, by becoming a family. It is to change the perspective of health professionals to pregnancy, childbirth and the puerperium. In El Salvador, Early Childhood does matter. That is why we work tirelessly so that no boy, no girl, is left behind.

What do you expect of your country by 2024? What are your dreams in this regard?
By 2024, El Salvador will have already implemented “Growing up Together”. With advances in health and nutrition, education and care, protection of rights and protective environments and surroundings. We will have already changed the way babies come into the world, the labor and the childbirth throughout the national health system. We will have increased baby food security with breastfeeding. We will have more girls and boys with initial education. And more commitment of Salvadorans to work with Early Childhood, training the next professionals in this country.