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2 JUNE 2022
Welcome to Vol. 15 of ‘Behaviour Change Matters’. While every stage in childhood is a step in the process of learning and growth, early childhood development (ECD) is the foundation of a child’s lifelong journey. In this edition, we get you stories of innovation in the field of early childhood development programmes and how creative communication methods have helped build a conducive learning environment for millions of children across India. ‘Meet the Team’ features Danish Khan from Ranchi state office who nurtures a dream of owning a library someday.
Sid Shrestha Chief - Social and Behaviour Change, UNICEF India
Early Childhood Care Education (ECCE) is an essential part of a child’s journey into the future. It is at this stage that children learn to communicate, co-exist and develop interests that help them grow and build foundations for lifelong learning and wellbeing. For the Indian state of Odisha, the ECCE curriculum had been a successful initiative since 2013. However, in March 2020, when faced with the challenge of COVID-19 lockdowns, the state government and UNICEF came up with an innovative solution to continue learning for more than 1.6 million children of the state. All this was done through a unique intervention called Ghare Ghare Arunima (sunrise in every home) that took ECCE directly to peoples’ homes, turning the learning process into a fun filled, participatory activity.

What is Ghare Ghare Arunima?
‘Arunima’ means sunrise in Odia language. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the flagship programme was called ‘Nua Arunima’ (early sunrise) that became a role model for other states in the field of ECCE. The Odisha government conceptualised their curriculum for children of age group 3-6 years based on this framework. The curriculum is age specific (3-4 years, 4-5 years and 5-6 years) with themes fixed for every month. When the COVID-19 lockdown led to the closure of Anganwadi Centres (AWCs) in March 2020, early childhood education came to a standstill. In order to ensure that learning gains were not lost, it was decided to produce a calendar that could be disseminated to every home with children belonging to these age groups. 

Ghare Ghare Arunima calendars are placed on the walls inside homes at the level of children’s height. The chart also guides children and parents towards physical and mental well-being. ©UNICEF/India/2022

The Ghare Ghare Arunima initiative in Odisha sends out monthly activity calendars to guide parents in early childhood education for children of 3-6 years. It is based on the ECE curriculum and comprises activities, games, puzzles and storytelling. All family members are encouraged to engage with children’s learning. The pictorial calendar of 30/31 days is interspersed with CAB (COVID-19 Appropriate Behaviour) messages around handwashing and social distancing. The messenger is an already popular mascot called Tiki Mausi (aunt Tiki) previously used for nutrition awareness by Odisha government. The calendar could be disseminated digitally via WhatsApp. The DWCD (Department of Women and Child) sent it to the Department of Social Welfare from where it was sent to the Anganwadi system down to the Anganwadi Worker (AWW), who in turn disseminated it to the parents. When the AWW went house to house to distribute dry ration she would check in on them and explain how the activities for the week were to be done.
 “The Anganwadi Worker was at the forefront of the pandemic response. By disseminating the calendar through her, children could be reached. While initially digital was the only means of dissemination, in about 5 months we had the first printed calendars. Very quickly, 1.6 million children attending 75,000 Anganwadi Centres across the state were reached either through print or digital means,” said Rashmi Ranjan Nayak, former Additional Secretary, DWCD.

Breaking the stereotype through ‘menstreaming’
The activities mentioned in the calendar are figurative, fun-filled and with limited text. As per the designers ‘menstreaming’ or involving all men of the families in the activities has been a priority while planning the calendar. This has resulted in a remarkable improvement in terms of fathers’ participation in children’s learning requirements.

Ghare Ghare Arunima initiative has led to a remarkable improvement in fathers’ participation in children’s learning needs at home. ©UNICEF/India/2022/SrikantKolari
Engaging grandparents has also been emphasised. According to Lalita Patnaik, Education Specialist, UNICEF, there is a notion that since most grandparents are not literate they cannot contribute to children’s learning. “It is important to give them a role and make them feel useful. In terms of tasks, the stereotype that women will do the cooking and washing and men will do activities outdoors needed to be challenged. We tried to reverse it by showing the mother solving a puzzle and men feeding a child, to put out this message in a subtle way.”

A sunrise for parents and caretakers
The Ghare Ghare Arunima intervention has been appreciated by Government of India and has been replicated by states such as Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Assam, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The calendar has been translated into ten tribal languages. This led to ‘Kuni’, or ‘small’, quarterly calendars with behaviour messages from the MCP (Mother and Child Protection) card of the ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) system. Both these initiatives – the Ghare Ghare Arunima and Kuni calendars – won the Skoch award for education. 

Both Ghare Ghare Arunima and Kuni calendars encourage parents to use household items to help children learn about colours, numbers, shapes and sizes at home. ©UNICEF/India/2022/SrikantKolari

Most mothers said that managing children at home with AWCs closed was hard. The calendars have helped them engage children in a way that the little ones are learning something new everyday. Fathers and grandfathers are involved in the activities; some say these activities helped strengthen family bonds among children and elderly. Parents believe that it has helped them understand how activities such as singing and dancing also contribute to development.  

Power of communication
Ghare Ghare Arunima programme has had far-reaching consequences because it goes beyond the traditional ways of learning. Other than new ways of education, families and children learned about the importance of CAB and mental health. The programme is inculcating a sense of deeper understanding and responsible social behaviour and the credit for this goes to a well planned and methodical process of communication. Community awareness about the programme and the benefits of early childhood development was raised through print, social and electronic media. Beneficiaries have been encouraged to share feedback both digitally and in-person. Parents and children are asked about their experiences using the new teaching/learning programmes so that it can be adjusted to deliver better in future.


For centuries, children have been raised in different ways and parenting styles around the world. Whether it is raising your biological child, co-parenting or fostering, it all comes under one umbrella- parenting. While parenting is no contest, at heart, everyone wants to champion it. UNICEF in partnership with Lady Irwin College, New Delhi has designed an innovative flipbook called Parvarish ke Champion (champions of parenting) that serves as a dialogue facilitation tool for FLWs (frontline workers) to promote responsive parenting among caregivers. Used along with other IEC (information, education and communication) material and innovative videos, Parvarish ke Champion works both as a guide as well as a bridge between FLWs and parents to develop parenting skills.

Parvarish ke Champion flipbook promotes activities parents can do with children by using resources available at home ©UNICEF/India/2021/RuhaniKaur

Alphabets as messages

The flipbook uses the alphabets of Hindi language where each letter is linked to a key message on positive parenting practices for caregivers of children upto age six. Rhymes, couplets, illustrations and key messages, together create a powerful IEC tool. It is meant to be used in small group meetings with parents and caregivers. There is guidance for the FLW on how to conduct the meeting as well.

Dr. Archna Kumar, Reader at Lady Irwin College explained that when conceptualising it, the team members asked themselves what resource material can help FLWs create conversations around responsive parenting for caregivers. “It should be participatory and fun. We asked, what are frontline functionaries most comfortable with? What kind of resources can be made available for parents? Key messages were identified. The flipbook is not limited to information. There were design considerations that it should be culturally appropriate, contextual, break stereotypes, promote inclusion, gender equality and diversity. It should allow flexibility of use, be adaptable, and conducive to initiate dialogue.”

It was decided to use 12 vowels and 36 consonants from Hindi along with one main and two supporting illustrations on every page. The message revolves around a letter, for example ‘K’ is for Kahani (story) and ‘Kh’ is for Khel (play). Messages on importance of storytelling and play are developed along with messages on nutrition, supplementary feeding, handwashing, and ORS (Oral Rehydration Solutions) are some of the guidance offered. Behavioural messages like don’t hit a child to manage a tantrum, boys and girls are equal, importance of engaging children in chores, importance of daily routine, have been emphasised. Activities parents can do with children for early childhood development using resources easily available at home are also proposed.

Communicating the right messages
As part of the Parvarish ke Champion package various IEC material and videos were developed targeting the families to generate awareness around the needs of the children in different age groups. The posters focus on different domains of development for their holistic growth, exclusive breastfeeding for children under six months, dietary diversity, immunization, responsive caregiving and importance of talking to the child. A number of audio-visual aids have also been part of this package. Parvarish ke Champion videos focus on how parents can support learning amongst children through play and can also be gender responsive while doing such activities.

Response from the field
Assam is one of the first states to adopt the responsive parenting package that began in four UNICEF focus districts: Sonepur, Goalpara, Baksa and Kamrup urban. UNICEF partner Vikramshila has adapted the Parvarish ke Champion flipbook into an Assamese alphabet chart with 48 key messages for these districts. Vikramshila works in a targeted manner in 100 Anganwadi Centres (AWCs) per district and each Anganwadi Worker (AWW) here serves about 100 children.

Anganwadi Workers utilise Parvarish ke Champion flipbook for children’s holistic development, setting boundaries for their safety and security, structuring the day of the child and toilet training. ©UNICEF/India/2021/RuhaniKaur

45-year-old Rubina Khatun, an AWW in Dhanbari area believes that the flipbook has given her a better understanding of delivering across the message to parents who were mostly preoccupied with earning a living for their families. During home visits she found that in some homes both men and women were out to work at brick kilns and there was no one to look after the children. In these circumstances, Rubina used the skills she had learnt about responsive parenting in a training on ECD. “Sometimes I brought the children to my home, at other times I counselled neighbours and relatives to help look after the unattended children,” said Rubina who also counselled the parents about parenting skills that can be adopted when they have limited time to spend at home.

Many mothers say that the children have lost a lot in terms of learning in past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They have been unable to meet friends, play and learn. With the help of Parvarish ke Champion, AWWs have engaged parents to help children learn creatively and also counselled parents on how to keep children engaged.

Challenge and hope

According to supervisors, parents like the responsive parenting guidance but are often too preoccupied with livelihood issues to engage in it. Literacy levels among mothers is low as most mothers have studied up to class 5-6, some are illiterate.  Moreover most parents do not have smartphones. However, supervisors believe that with AWCs now open on regular basis, it will be easy for AWWs to interact with parents and caregivers in the meetings.

The AWCs reopened in Assam on March 7 after being closed for nearly two years. Tiny pairs of slippers arranged in neat rows present a happy sight. Inside, the sound of children reciting a poem in call and response with the AWW. There is a sense of joy and reassurance with every alphabet of Parvarish ke Champion flipbook that helps build imagination and creativity amongst parents and children in the community, hoping for a better tomorrow.

Social and Behaviour Change Communication plays a critical role in addressing the social aspects of health issues, as well as their prevention and control. In a previous edition, we carried a story on the Dulaar IVRS (Interactive Voice Response System) initiative that reached out to over thirty thousand users with responsive parenting advice through mobile phones in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Let’s meet Aditya and his family who experienced a life changing insight into nutrition and health through ‘Hello Didi’ calls, a part of the Dulaar initiative.

When three-year-old Aditya wakes up every morning, his mother Pooja makes sure that he has a nutritious meal before starting his day. Their small house in village Baswanifa of Sonbhadra district has a decent kitchen where you can see a bunch of vegetables, some peanuts and milk for children. Both Aditya and his sister Akanksha seem to be happy and active children, who like to talk and play with each other. Pooja is educated till class 12th while the father Dharmendra holds a B.Sc. degree, works in a pathology lab and wants to further study pharmacy. The family understands the value of learning and education and welcomes the flow of information from reliable sources.
A few weeks ago, Aditya’s mother learnt about and subscribed to Hello Didi (lit. ‘Hello Older Sister), a telephonic counselling service under UNICEF’s Dulaar initiative that provides parenting advice and information on various important topics like health and nutrition. Initially she did it just out of curiosity. However, later she realized that these calls were getting her the information about her areas of interest – cooking and food. Pooja shared the information with her husband and they both started following the nutrition advice, making it a part of their daily life. Pooja realised that her children’s diet needed massive improvement and started making healthy changes in their daily routine. “I was giving children the food that we all eat, till Hello Didi told us to give peanuts, grams, puffed rice, Ghee etc,” she said. “Now I know that unless a child is fed properly, not only their physical health, their mental health will also be hampered.”

Aditya (right) with his older sister Akanksha have both
experienced healthy weight gain with Hello Didi telephonic
advice. ©UNICEF/India/2022

Along with physical well-being, mental health of their children has been an area of concern for both Pooja and Dharmendra. Dharmendra’s brother has a mental disability and needs special care and attention from the whole family. Aditya’s grandparents are also a part of the family and they have also learnt about nutritional needs of children through Hello Didi calls. 
Aditya was born as a child weighing three kilograms and as he grew older, he did not gain his age-appropriate weight. For almost two years, his weight remained three kgs which  was a serious health concern for the family. After following Hello Didi’s telephonic advice the family observed a remarkable weight gain in both children. Four-year-old Akanksha gained more that seven kilo grams while Aditya started looking healthy and happy as he gained visibly in a span of few months. There has been a significant improvement in his physical activities as well that includes smiling, laughing, roaming in the entire house, enjoying playing with his toys and language skills. With better diet Aditya started catching words and counting some numbers. The family now seems to be much aware about the health, hygiene and proper upbringing of their children.

The impact of Hello Didi’s call was clearly seen not only on the mother’s mindset but also the entire family. Although not affluent, both parents ensured that their children got the best of nutrition within their limited means using the advice from Hello Didi. Aditya’s parents and grandparents are now aware about the health and nutritional needs of growing children and make sure that they leave no stone unturned in order to ensure good health in the family.
MEET OUR TEAM: Danish Khan, Social and Behaviour Change Specialist, Ranchi
With over twenty years of experience in programme management and team development, Danish Khan leads the Social and Behaviour Change programme for UNICEF in Jharkhand. Born and brought up in the historic city of Rampur in Uttar Pradesh, India, Danish spent most of his childhood immersed in books. Rampur is known for its Raza Library that has more than 12,000 rare manuscripts and a fine collection of Mughal miniature paintings. Danish’s love for libraries was so deep that he wanted to own one at some point. However, the dream of a owning a library soon transformed into conquering the football field as he aspired to be a professional footballer too. He later moved to Aligarh Muslim University for higher education where he graduated in Economics and completed his Masters in Social Work before volunteering for the Polio programme where he learnt about UNICEF’s work in the area of social mobilisation. Danish then joined a voluntary programme with Canada World Youth that not only helped him understand different cultures, their values and similarities but also guided him in terms of choosing his career path.         

Danish feels that his journey with UNICEF has been full of surprises. He started as a consultant in 2004 from a small town called Guna in Madhya Pradesh and within two years he qualified for a C4D (Communication for Development) officer in order to lead the C4D programme for the state. In 2012, he joined the Yemen country office as the Chief of C4D, which proved to be the most challenging phase of his career. “The programme, emergency response and humanitarian work were quite challenging in a war torn country. But it was also one of the most satisfying experiences of my career because I could help one of the most marginalized communities. I learned to evolve new methods and techniques to reach out to people and help them,” he says. After completing a year, Danish had to leave Yemen due to a personal emergency.

A firm believer in hard work and results, Danish is now a Social and Behaviour Change specialist with UNICEF Jharkhand where he has led the COVID-19 RCCE (Risk Communication and Community Engagement) and vaccination programme across all 24 districts of the state. He has also managed the implementation of integrated package to improve maternal health and child care, child feeding and sanitation practices.
Married to a librarian, Danish still plans to own a library someday where he shall spend hours reading, surrounded by piles of books. In his free time he loves playing with his kids, exercising and trying out new recipes in the kitchen. 

The documents disseminated by Behaviour Change Matters
do not necessarily reflect an official position by UNICEF.

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