As we come to the end of a tumultuous 2016 there can’t be many people who fail to recognise the historic nature of democratic decisions taken this year. From Brexit, to Trump’s election, the rise of populism will continue to be felt for the foreseeable future. For those of us fighting inequality and injustice and who have asked the question over the years ‘just how much inequality can a society take before people fight back?’ We have our answer. People have fought back through the ballot boxes, swayed by inaccurate information and false promises. Their votes will have far reaching implications.
Here at Oshun we had another terrifically busy year. Issues around education, water and sanitation, conflict, youth and early childhood learning dominated our year. We had some brilliant successes, our partner charity Out of the Box Partnerships built a wonderful playground in Addis Ababa. Our work on the Global Investment Fund for Water continues to gather momentum. And, we worked on numerous political events at the World Humanitarian Summit, Women Deliver, UNGA, Global Partnerships for Effective Development in Nairobi and many more.
Here are the highlights:
Early years matter…
We are beginning to see recognition within the development community of the critical importance of a child’s early years if they are to reach their potential. Young minds thrive when they are stimulated and their bodies cared for. Children need nutrition for growth, as cognitive impairment from malnutrition is irreversible from around the age of 4 years. Trauma in early years can have dramatic long-term impacts on mental health. The greatest challenge is combining these factors and we believe this can be achieved through education. Play is an essential component of child learning, possessing a child with the ability to develop fine and gross motor skills, build relationships and learn to take risks.
Oshun has partnered with Out of the Box Partnerships and are delighted to have supported the building of the first adventure playground in Addis Ababa. Sally Duncan’s work delivering this project has been an inspiration and the faces of the children in Baldaras Condominium say it all. We are now working on plans for an early years centre on the site with two more playgrounds to be constructed in 2017. Please do get in touch if you would like more information about ways to support this fun and exciting project.
Educated girls, healthy women…
The triennial Women Deliver Summit in Copenhagen in May was an impressive event. The summit was based on women’s health, with the key message that better education is essential to the achievement of better health outcomes. An educated girl is more likely to marry later and have fewer, healthier children. A literate mother is more able to support her children’s learning journey. Working for the Global Partnership for Education and their Board Chair, Julia Gillard, we organized a series of side events linking education and health, including in emergency environments and for children with disabilities. With our production partner, Vivace, we produced a fantastic exhibition stand which quickly turned into a film location for everyone from the cast of Glee to Sesame Street!
Children in emergencies need education too…
Hot on the heels of Women Deliver, we were at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. The first UN Summit of its kind brought leaders from across the globe to discuss the challenges of delivering support to the world’s most vulnerable citizens. Never has there been a greater need for diplomatic efforts to come together more effectively. It is not clear that WHS succeeded in creating greater coherence, though public pronouncements rarely do justice to the decisions taken in the margins.
However, one headline did jump out. Children living in emergency situations have a right to education too. The launch of Education Cannot Wait (ECW) was a culmination of a 4-year strategic endeavor (a lifetime for many of course) to get education on the humanitarian agenda. Education is not water, food or shelter, but a child denied an education, living a childhood in a war zone, will surely struggle to reach their potential. Education offers a natural bridge between the development and humanitarian communities. The average time a person is a refugee is 17 years – an entire childhood. These years cannot be replayed later in life so finding a way to educate children living in the most challenging environments is critical.
Alongside the launch of ECW, we hosted a lively and engaging debate in the form of a public meeting to discuss the challenges facing children in Africa. This was attended by the Presidents of Somalia and Mali, former Prime Ministers Julia Gillard and Gordon Brown, and a former First Lady of South Africa and Mozambique, Graça Machel, who authored the seminal work on the Affects of Conflict on Children in 1996.
As we tuned in to summer, the Girls’ Education Forum took over. Working with DFID we created a dynamic and engaging event. Nyradzayi Gumbodzvanda, rallied the audience and we were left in no doubt that gender equality is the key to unlocking development.
I hope we see more of these collaborative efforts moving forwards. This has been a divisive year, where political beliefs have created rifts globally, within countries, within families. Let’s hope that we see a resurgence in partnership and collaboration in 2017.