First regional meeting of Africa Early Childhood Network a success!

This past March network partners from across Africa* met in Nairobi for the first AfECN regional network meeting. The meeting was an opportunity for national networks — several of them established before AfECN — to learn from one another, receive training on organizational development, advocacy and resource mobilization, and discuss the role of AfECN in the region.

To kick off the meeting several national networks shared stories of success, including early childhood development (ECD) trainings at grassroots and community levels, capacity building workshops, formal registration and significant growth of some national networks, and participation in national ECD policy review processes or curriculum reviews in several countries.

Over three days many experiences, opportunities and challenges to creating safe, healthy, happy futures for all of Africa’s children were shared. Partners noted that the need for high-impact, high-visibility advocacy from national networks to increase their influence is critical. Also of high importance are additional materials presenting the latest, most relevant ECD evidence, better coordination at all levels to ensure governments keep their commitments and put resources behind them, and greater capacity building on advocacy, management, fundraising and resource mobilization.

National networks voiced support for AfECN to coordinate or provide capacity in all of these key areas as well as drive the development of templates and models of organizational policies, procedures, constitutional and governance arrangements, financial management systems, and monitoring and evaluation standards. In addition, network partners look forward to growing the body of empirical research within and across countries, and continuing the exchange of knowledge, practice, experience and technical expertise.

National partners came ready to learn and ready to take that learning and energy back to their countries. Amongst many commitments made at the regional meeting towards building and growing strong national networks, several countries committed to review organizational and governance structures, legally register, find skilled and talented members for their boards, and adopt new tactics for increasing the visibility of their advocacy.

Partners agreed that AfECN network partners are at the first stage of forming a network and viewed the meeting as a wonderful opportunity to strengthen the individual and collective efforts to create a common vision and build the systems, structures, talent and capacity necessary to achieve short-term goals and long-term impact.

The most important thing is our shared mission. As Maggie Kamau-Biruri, AfECN board member articulated, “AFECN’s role as an advocate and convener of ECD on the continent is already gaining momentum, we will continue to ensure that ECD is placed at the forefront of development in Africa.”

* Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Lesotho, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Liberia, Cameroon, Senegal and Nigeria