Launched in 1993, this Peruvian government programme is designed to promote the optimal development of impoverished children aged 6-48 months. The specific objectives are to:
- Provide holistic support for infants who live in poverty or extreme poverty;
- Promote and develop, with families and communities, an adequate culture of childrearing;
- Promote management and pro-child volunteerism at the community level; and
- Contribute to the personal development of women and raise their quality of life, facilitating their search for opportunities in education and work.
This early childhood development programme draws on interpersonal communication and community participation in an effort to nourish and educate children living in poverty. Each Wawa Wasi centre is led by a community member called a "Mother-Carer" ("Madre Cuidadora") who has been screened to ensure that she is accepted by the community, shows love and care for children, and can read and write fluently. Depending on experience, Mother-Carers receive between 180 to 240 nuevos soles per month (currency exchange is, as of June 2010, at 2.82 soles per US dollar). Mother-Carers receive initial training and then yearly training.
There are 4 types of Wawa Wasi. The first, and most common, is the family Wawa Wasi, where a Mother-Carer takes care of a maximum of 8 children from the community at her home. The second is the community Wawa Wasi, where local authorities provide premises that may care for up to 16 children in the charge of 2 Mother-Carers. The third type, institutional Wawa Wasis, are sponsored by organisations that wish to adopt the practice in their own locale and which can meet all expenses. A fourth type, called Qatari Wawa, is designed for children in rural communities. It does not provide care for children daily, but, rather, focuses on parental practices through: workshops with children, older siblings and parents, and local authorities, as well as other participatory activities offered at a local community centre (Yachay Wasi) established for parents and children.
Children participating in the centres take part in the following:
- Early childhood learning: There is an emphasis on the importance of children developing in the motor, cognitive (including linguistic), affective, and social domains (including identity). Each centre plans activities and has toys and learning materials appropriate to different ages. They also have a developmental chart with several milestones to be filled out monthly for each child. The overall approach sees each child as the main agent in his/her own development and not as a passive learner of lessons taught by the Mother-Carer of the Wawa Wasi. Wawa Wasi seeks to promote the potential of each child individually. Each centre is expected to incorporate local customs and traditions in promoting children's development.
- Nutrition: Children receive 3 meals a day, usually prepared at local community kitchens. The menus are created by nutritionists, so as to provide balanced meals. The concept of active feeding is promoted to generate a positive attitude towards food amongst children and let them experience new tastes, shapes, colours, and flavours. Children are expected to gradually learn to feed themselves. Overall, these meals are expected to cover 70% of a child's daily nutritional requirements for calories, 100% for proteins, 70% for iron, and 60% other micronutrients. Finally, the children are encouraged to follow personal hygiene practices (washing hands, brushing teeth, putting towels away in a clean place, etc.).
- Health: Children participate in a government programme known as Control of Growth and Development (CRED) which checks them for height, weight, and vaccination status. Training activities for Mother-Carers and parents involve topics on health and security.
- Parental practices: The Wawa Wasis work with parents in their homes to promote child-rearing practices centred on the children's needs.
The programme has 36 offices around the country for closer supervision of the activities. Each of these offices supervises several Management Committees; each "Comité de Gestión", made up of volunteers, assumes responsibility for approximately 12 Wawa Wasis. The organisation of Wawa Wasis also includes Field Coordinators (Coordinadoras de Campo), who are teachers or other professionals trained to work with 2 Management Committees and their Wawa Wasis. In addition, in each community there is a Management Committee formed by volunteers, who receive the money for 12 Wawa Wasis on average.
For further details (in Spanish), visit the Programa Nacional Wawa Wasi website.
Early Childhood Development.
According to the National Institute of Statistics (INEI 2006), 65.4% of children under 5 in Peru are growing up in poverty and 25.4% are stunted (Luis Cordero, "Perspectiva Nacional de los Nuevos Patrones de Crecimiento de Niños y Niñas", paper presented at Seminario de Presentación de los Nuevos Patrones de Crecimiento de Niños y Niñas de la OMS, Lima, 23 April 2007).
Promoting Early Childhood Development through a Public Programme: Wawa Wasi in Peru [PDF], by Santiago Cueto, Gabriela Guerrero, Juan Leon, Alvaro Zevallos, and Claudia Sugimaru, July 2009 - from the Zunia website, accessed June 9 2010; email from Santiago Cueto to The Communication Initiative on June 20 2010; and Programa Nacional Wawa Wasi website, June 22 2010.