Scaling-Up Early Child Development Interventions in Rwanda

Globally, around 250 million children under the age of five do not meet key development milestones, which reduces their ability to reach their full potential, and compromises the success of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Convention on the Rights of the Child and a large body of scientific evidence have shown that parenting is one of the strongest influences on early child development (ECD). As a result, there has been a recent push towards the implementation of parent training programmes across the world.

However, despite the increasing popularity of these programmes, gaps remain in our knowledge of what works to promote positive parenting practices, particularly in vulnerable contexts. This project aims to establish a long-term partnership between the IDS, Save the Children UK (SCUK) and Save the Children International Rwanda (SCI-R) to analyse, evaluate and scale-up (in partnership with the Government of Rwanda) a unique holistic programme (First Steps) that supports families of children aged 0-3 in the district of Ngororero in Rwanda.

The objective of First Steps (Intera za Mbere) is to enhance knowledge, attitudes and practice of parents to support the physical, socio-emotional, cognitive and language development of their children. It is offered through weekly community meetings guided by local facilitators that support peer learning, aided by a radio programme and in collaboration with local bookshops.

SCI-R intends to collaborate with the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion (MIGEPROF) to scale-up First Steps as part of the implementation of the national ECD policy strategic plan.

The main objectives of this project are to:

  • Provide rigorous in-depth analysis of the effects of First Steps on parenting skills and ECD over time;
  • Analyse the causal mechanisms shaping the relationship between parenting and ECD;
  • Use this analysis to identify entry points for scaling-up the programme in Rwanda, and to international endeavours to replicate similar holistic ECD interventions in low-income countries. 
Gauthier Marchais, Research Fellow in the Conflict and Violence research cluster at IDS

T: +44 (0)1273 915731


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Photo of Patricia Justino, IDS Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction Research Fellow

T: +44 (0)1273 915752


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Partner organisations

Project Dates:
January 2018 - January 2021
Project Status:
British Academy
Research Themes / Programmes:
Conflict, Violence and Security