At UNICEF, we know that the early moments of life offer an unparalleled opportunity to build the brains of the children who will build the future. In fact, there is no better time to invest in the development of the next generation than in the earliest years. But for parents to give their children the early stimulation, good nutrition, and loving nurturing care that they need, mums and dads require time and support. And yet, around the world, two in three infants live in countries where dads are not entitled to a single day of paid paternity leave.
So this Father’s Day, UNICEF’s #EarlyMomentsMatter campaign called on all Country Offices and National Committees to work with partners to advocate for stronger family-friendly policies that support fathers and mothers to give their children the best start in life. As we advocate externally so, too, are we advocating internally for policies that help UNICEF’s mums and dads do their best by their children.
Recognizing the importance of healthy early childhood development for every child and every family, on January 1 2018, UNICEF expanded its paid parental leave policy to all parents, regardless of gender, sex or how they became parents. Non-gestational primary caregivers (fathers or parents via surrogacy or adoption) now receive 16 weeks of paid leave and secondary caregivers now receive 8 weeks of leave, double the previous entitlement. Additionally, UNICEF’s dual-career couples can now share this leave entitlement after the first 8 weeks of maternity leave.
As the family came together and I held him in my arms for the first time, my heart was pounding with an overwhelming feeling of joy. I realized that my world had just completely changed, and changed for the better. I was glad that I had taken time off work to be with my family. As an HR specialist, I had processed many paternity leave requests before, yet never fully grasped the importance of this leave for staff. There are no words to describe the excitement and joy that a father can feel when he holds his new baby for the first time. — Mansoor Amiri, UNICEF Afghanistan
To celebrate these exciting expansions, in the lead up to Father’s Day, UNICEF launched an internal campaign, Out of Office on Paternity Leave, inviting UNICEF dads to share their experiences with paternity leave. Dads from across the organisation joined Mansoor Amiri, a dad from UNICEF Afghanistan, in sharing moving blogs about how paternity leave brought them profound joy and personal growth both as fathers and as husbands.
With the most advanced parental leave policies for employees, UNICEF is a leader in the United Nations family and is actively exploring other ways to support parents and children. “Positive and meaningful interaction with mothers and fathers from the very beginning helps to shape children’s brain growth and development for life, making them healthier and happier, and increasing their ability to learn. It’s all of our responsibility to enable them to fill this role,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore.
Members of our United Nations family, let’s all work together to make the early moments matter!
By UNICEF #EarlyMomentsMatter Campaign Team