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Zero-to-five Development Can Impact Inequality

Zero-to-five development not only impacts future development at the individual level, but also has social implications. Therefore, as we generate ideas for zero-to-five development, it’s crucial to include racial, gender, religious, and other social considerations to ensure that the efforts to enhance early childhood development is not favoring one group over another, which can exacerbate inequality.

Photo of Shelly Xu
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Unfair distribution of benefits for early childhood development (by parents, primary caretakers, or intentionally/unintentionally by a third-party) can increase gender, racial, religious tension.
Gender is a particularly important factor to consider. According to Seema Jayachandran of Northwestern University, “many countries that are poor today have cultural norms that exacerbate favoritism toward males.” At early stages of development, boys usually receive more education, and higher portions of food when resource is scarce. Furthermore, according to UNICEF, girls experience higher rates of domestic and sexual violence than boys. This is particularly important because according to WHO, early childhood exposure to violence has long term negative consequences as children grow into adults. Therefore, a good idea for zero-to-five development should take into account not only  what to provide for the children, but also  how to distribute these benefits. 

Race and religion are also factors to consider when distributing benefits. Tanzania, a potential focus of this challenge, is 30% Christian, 35% Muslim, and 35% indigenous beliefs as of 2014. This should be taken into account. For example, if food was to be distributed through only Christian churches, this may actually cause more harm by increasing religious tension.


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Photo of Meena Kadri

Thanks for these valuable insights, Shelly – they're certainly important for us all to think about ahead of our upcoming Ideas phase. Hope to see you there!