SPEECH BY HER EXCELLENCY MAMA ROSELLA RASANGA, FIRST LADY, COUNTY GOVERNMENT OF SIAYA, DURING THE LAUNCH OF THE EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT CONFERENCE AT THE JARAMOGI OGINGA ODINGA UNIVERSITY FOR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY ON 25TH OCTOBER 2021


The Chief Guest, His Excellency The Governor, Siaya County The Country Rep. UNICEF Kenya, Madam Maniza Zaman,
The National Coordinator, ECD Network for Kenya, and Executive Director, African Council for Distance Education, Dr. Teresa Mwoma.
The Board of Directors, ECD Network for Kenya, Political Leaders,
Invited Guests, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

INTRODUCTION
1. Let me take this opportunity to welcome everyone to Siaya County – the home of Nyathi en Mwandu AND the only “Living University” in Kenya on Nurturing Care for Early Childhood Development.
2. As the Patron of Smart Start Siaya, it gives me great pleasure to witness our county host the 4th National Conference on Early Childhood Development.
3. The fact that we are hosting this conference in Siaya County is a vote of confidence in our efforts on child equity through promoting early childhood development related programs within Kenya and regionally.
4. Indeed, through the various Nurturing Care for Early Childhood Development projects implemented by the County Government of Siaya and its partners, we have moved the needle in making the early years of a child’s life a key social development agenda, and also continued to deliver on the critical role of ensuring every child’s right to not only survive but also thrive and transform the society.
5. As we gather here today, allow me to pay tribute to H.E. Cornel Rasanga Amoth for graciously agreeing – in 2018 – to participate in the Leading and Scaling Up ECD Initiatives executive education course at the globally acclaimed Harvard University, in Boston USA. His experience (and that of the five other officers from the county) at Harvard was the game-changer in the way Siaya County implemented ECD programmes.
6. Upon His Excellency and the team’s return to the country, the government-led “Smart Start Siaya” project was conceptualized.
7. You may ask: Why Smart Start? This is because H.E. and the County Government of Siaya recognized that the early years of life are crucial in influencing a range of health and social outcomes across a child’s life-course. Based on scientific research, we were able to understand that many challenges in adult society e.g., mental health problems, obesity, stunting, heart disease, criminality, competence in literacy and numeracy – have their roots in early childhood.
8. The Smart Start Siaya model has been implemented since March 2018 and is guided by five strategic actions:
I. Government leadership and investment
II. Focus on families and their communities
III. Strengthening early childcare services delivery
IV. Monitoring implementation progress
V. Using data to innovatively design new ECD projects

ACHIEVEMENTS

9. Since its inception, the Smart Start Siaya Project has achieved a lot including global recognition as the first-ever cross-sector effort that is focused on improving outcomes for all young children in a specific geographic area within Africa.
10. While in the past implementation of ECD programmes was haphazard, under the Smart Start Siaya model, there is now an effective governance model led by the Smart Start Siaya Executive Committee (made up of CEC’s and technical advisors). The Executive is supported by the Multi-Sectoral Team (MST) – that includes departmental heads and implementing partners – which now coordinates implementation of Nurturing Care for ECD programmes at county and sub-county levels.
11. Smart Start Siaya partners co-authored with CECMs a Cabinet Paper that led to the adoption of NCfECD as a standing county government development agenda.
12. In order to create and sustain awareness on the significance of Nurturing Care for ECD, Smart Start Siaya has given birth to Nyathi en Mwandu – a social behaviour change and communication campaign under the Office of The First Lady that has conducted community sensitizations in all the 30 wards of Siaya County thus increasing the demand and uptake of Nurturing Care for ECD services.
13. Additionally, Smart Start Siaya has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Lake Region Economic Bloc Secretariat for the adoption of the Smart Start Initiative (SSI) for scaling up of Nurturing Care for ECD in 13 counties.
14. Based on the Smart Start Siaya experience, Nurturing Care for ECD has been adopted as a strategic service under the Kenya Community Health Policy 2020 – 2030 and as a strategic objective in the County First Ladies Strategic Plan 2020 – 2023.

WAY FORWARD

1. I am therefore confident that the presentations and activities that will be taking place during this conference will go a long way in ensuring that the achievements that we have recorded as a county are showcased and explored further.
2. This conference also offers stakeholders in the ECD sector an opportunity to reflect on where we are and what else we must do to ensure that our children not just survive but also thrive.
3. Specifically, allow me to appreciate the efforts of the ECD Network in Kenya for bringing together all the relevant parties to participate in this important event. I would also like to particularly extend our appreciation to key partners that have ensured the success of early childhood development programming in Kenya including, The County Government of Siaya, UNICEF, Hilton Foundation, PATH, KMET, ChildFund, Catholic Relief Services, Agha Khan University and ADS among others.
4. Allow me to also sincerely appreciate the buy in and support of His Excellency Cornel Rasanga, EGH, Siaya Governor throughout the implementation period.

CONCLUSION

5. Nikeche “Nyathi En Mwandu, Miye Mise Motegno Chon.”
6. Sincere appreciation to all for accepting to participate in this important conference both in person and virtually. I wish you all a very engaging conference.
Thank you!

H.E. ROSELLA RASANGA, FIRST LADY, SIAYA COUNTY,
PATRON, NURTURING CARE FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT PROJECT