The WED Movement culminates in a two-day workshop wrapping up all devised strategic outputs for the early childhood development sector in Abu Dhabi

The World Early Childhood Development Movement (WED movement) held its 2021 wrap up workshop within the heart of Abu Dhabi’s Cultural District at Manarat Al Saadiyat. The two-day meeting focused on reviewing strategic outputs, devised over the past nine months, which are designed to solve challenges in the early childhood sector in Abu Dhabi and beyond, and have a positive impact on children’s early development.

During the two-day workshop, the WED Movement brought together its Breakthrough Working Groups (BWGs), which are four pluri-disciplinary groups made of world-leading policy influencers, academics, practitioners, innovators, private sector leaders, philanthropists, and beneficiaries. Each group focused on a different theme: Tech Humanity for Children, the 21st Century Lifestyle, Social Interaction, and Emotional Wellbeing. The four groups discussed the most pressing challenges identified in children’s early development and their devised outputs, with ECA senior management, policymakers and strategic partners, including Mubadala, Abu Dhabi Government Media Office, Crown Prince Court, Abu Dhabi Executive Office, Department of Community Development, Statistics Centre of Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Digital Authority, Department of Health, Abu Dhabi, Department of Education and Knowledge, Supreme Council of Motherhood and Childhood, Abu Dhabi Judicial Department and Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation.

The outputs, which will be championed in Abu Dhabi and consist of short-, mid-and long-term initiatives across all four themes, are the product of over 110 BWG sessions, four demo days, involving best practice and technical consultant meetings, 35 cross BWG sessions, 60 formal stakeholder interviews, 10 knowledge transfer sessions, as well as local qualitative research conducted with key audience groups in Abu Dhabi, including parents and educators.

The theme ‘Tech Humanity for Children’ stems from the need to better understand the impact of technology, as it evolves, on early human development. A comparative study of a survey conducted by Abu Dhabi’s Early Childhood Authority in September 2020 and a second survey administered in April 2021 to the same demographic – parents of children between 0 to 8 years old in Abu Dhabi – found that the average screen time of children increased from two to three hours a day. This exceeds the WHO guidelines, which recommend limiting screen time to no more than an hour a day for children aged 3 and 4 Screen time is often sedentary, which means children spend less time doing physical activity, interacting with others or playing, which is crucial for their optimal development.

Leading this group, Michael Rich, Pediatrician and Researcher at Harvard Medical School, said: “As a society, we often have an archaic way of perceiving technology, that there is good and bad screen time. In general, screen time is less good than real-time. However, we need to take a step back and understand that this is not a binary problem. Technology is here to stay, and our children move seamlessly between the digital and the real world. What we need to do is help them learn how to live in this environment and enhance their ability to choose what’s right for them.

By focusing on Tech Humanity for Children, we want to equip children, the future humans who will be running our world, to become resilient and empower them, as they grow from infancy to childhood to adolescence to adulthood, to use the digital world effectively at their benefit, knowing when it is harming or hindering them.”

The BWG focused on ‘Tech Humanity for Children’ proposed several outputs, including the launch of an annual survey to understand and track tech use among children from parents and caregivers and use the results to design effective programs, as well as the development of Tech Design Principles, a framework and guidelines enabling tech and content companies to produce child-centered content by including child voices in their products.

H.E. Sana Mohamed Suhail, Director General of the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority (ECA) opened the workshop by welcoming the WED Movement’s Co-Chairs, H.E. Omar Ghobash, Assistant Minister for Culture and Public Diplomacy at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Cecilia Vaca Jones, Executive Director, Bernard van Leer Foundation, and the BWG’s Team representatives, Dominic Richardson, a global expert on children’s well-being in developed countries, Michael Rich, a Pediatrician and Researcher at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Hossam Al Tatari, an acclaimed Pediatrician with vast experience in the UAE and Suha Al-Hassan, ECD Expert in the Middle East and a key founder of the Queen Rania Faculty for Childhood, Jordan.

H.E. Sana Mohamed Suhail, Director General of the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority (ECA) said: “This year, the BWGs were tasked to identify problem areas, propose science-based solutions, and develop implementation programs each focusing on a theme: Tech Humanity for Children, 21st Century Lifestyle and Emotional Wellbeing and Social Interaction. Our two-day workshop brought together incredible minds, as we navigated through the learnings and outputs of our extraordinary teams. Our WED Movement has Abu Dhabi at its heart, but the world at mind. We truly strive to advance our efforts globally to create true innovation in early childhood development to better prepare our children for the future.”

The workshop discussed different ways to tackle the WED Movement’s priority challenges including developing reliable Abu Dhabi-centered data, implementing impactful initiatives for the benefit of children, parents, teachers, and other stakeholders, and amplifying the Movement’s efforts through public and private partnerships.

Cecilia Vaca Jones, the WED Movement’s Co-Chair said: “We had a wonderfully productive workshop and have come out better equipped to improve child outcomes, incorporating a holistic approach towards child development. We are uniquely positioned to support Abu Dhabi as the child-friendly capital of the world and have an extraordinary opportunity to drive change by preparing the next generations. We are committed to using the knowledge and experience of our growing team to drive innovation and help our children grow up healthier, smarter, and more empowered than ever before. The future of our nation, and the world, depends on them.”

The workshop was hosted in attendance of ECA senior management and strategic partners, including Abu Dhabi Executive Office, the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, the Department of Community Development – Abu Dhabi, the Department of Education and Knowledge – Abu Dhabi, the Statistics Center – Abu Dhabi, the Abu Dhabi Digital Authority, the Crown Prince Court, Mubadala the WED Movement’s Visionary Partner, and the Abu Dhabi Government Media Office.

The WED Movement’s workshops enable BWG members, partners, and ECA senior management to align and challenge the prioritized outputs ahead of the Movement’s Main Forum in the first quarter of 2022, which will hone implementable and adaptable solutions for local and global early childhood development challenges.

The WED Movement was launched earlier this year under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority. The Movement aims to spur innovation in the early childhood development sector in Abu Dhabi through its BWGs to realize ECA’s vision to provide for the health, wellbeing, and protection of Abu Dhabi’s children from pregnancy to age eight.



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