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Ma Yili appointed UNICEF Ambassador

Early Childhood Development to be her top priority for children


BEIJING, 23 October, 2015 – A passionate advocate for children in China, well known actor, Ma Yili joins UNICEF China officially as a National Ambassador. A mother herself, she will bring her passion and commitment to advocate for every child's right, no matter where they live or where they are from, to quality early childhood development.  

©UNICEF/China/2015/Xia Yong

A passionate advocate for children in China, well known actor, Ma Yili joins UNICEF China officially as a Ambassador on 22 October, 2015.She is having a group photo with Dr. Pia Britto, Senior Adviser on Early Childhood Development at UNICEF New York headquarter (1st Left), Rana Flowers, UNICEF Representative to China (3rd Left), Dr. Chemba Raghavan, Education Specialist for UNICEF East Asia and Pacific (2nd Right), Leotes Helin,  Education Specialist at UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia (1st Right).

Ma Yili's appointment took place on the sidelines of the 2015 Asia-Pacific Regional Early Childhood Development Conference held in Beijing this week. The conference, which brought together 500 experts from Government, academic, and civil society from across Asia and the Pacific, is intended to further strengthen commitment and knowledge sharing on the importance of early childhood development – where the evidence shows that investing in children today breads not only success in learning over time but also significant economic gains for societies of the future.

Early childhood development, or ECD, is about the "whole child" — the physical, social, emotional, cognitive thinking and language progression of each young individual. Global evidence demonstrates that the period from pregnancy to 8 years old is a critical window in a child's growth and development. It contributes to how they become intellectually curious, socially confident and equipped with a solid foundation for navigating their lives and the world around them. It is defined as a combination of interventions from health care, nutrition, education, protection and cognitive stimulation.  

©By courtesy of  Easy Entertainment 
At the appointment ceremony, Ma Yili meets the Neurologist, Education Experts and UNICEF Staff.

"It's a great honour to take on the new role as UNICEF Ambassador and work with the organization to promote early childhood development," said Ma Yili. "As a mother myself, I realize that this is a critical period in a child's life. I am excited to be working with UNICEF to make sure that every child, especially the most disadvantaged, has a fair start in life"

Advances in neurosciences show that during the first year of life almost 1,000 brain cells connect per second. These connections are the building blocks of a child's life, determining their cognitive, emotional and social development, their capacity to learn and their growth and development. The benefit is not only for the individual society but has economic and social returns to society at large.

While at the conference Ma Yili had the opportunity to engage with leading neuroscientists and early childhood specialists before signing her official letter of appointment.

"Ma Yili has an incredible commitment and capacity to translate and inspire the Government officials, the communities and parents regarding the very compelling reasons why an investment in early years of a child's life - in promoting breastfeeding and good nutrition, in health and in early stimulation, protection and education – reaps benefits for each child, for each community and for the economy over time. Over the last few years, her engagement on a number of child focused campaigns has helped to reach millions of people, including parents and young people themselves" said Rana Flowers, UNICEF Representative to China. "We are proud for her to join the UNICEF Ambassadors, who play a critical role in amplifying the voice of children and helping us to make sure they are a top priority."

Ma Yili first teamed up with UNICEF China in May 2013, when she was appointed as Special Advocate for Breastfeeding and Early Child Development. Over the past two years, she has been actively engaged in supporting the children's organization's 10m2 of Love campaign to promote workplace and public building breastfeeding rooms in China and nurture a culture of breastfeeding.

This May, to celebrate the country's early childhood month, she joined UNICEF to launch a nationwide social media campaign focused on educating the public about the benefits of early childhood development.  An interview with UNICEF China's ECD Specialist, Chen Xuefeng, has been viewed more than 223,400 so far, and the topic page created for the campaign has 43.8 million page views

In 2010, China's State Council outlined an ambitious goal to increase access to kindergartens to benefit the country's 45 million children aged 3 to up to 6 years old.

Since then, the country has witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of children attending kindergartens, from just 45 per cent in 2009 to 70.5 per cent by 2014. During this period, spurred by the central government allocation of 900 million US dollars, the number of kindergartens grew to 210,000 serving 40.5 million children.

UNICEF China has been working closely with the Government to support the national roll out of early childhood development services, to ensure that the services bring together the crucial packaging or integration of nutrition, stimulation, education, health care and protection services, reaching in particular the poorest children in the country with quality and accessible services.

About UNICEF in China:
UNICEF first assisted China between 1947 and 1951, providing emergency services, food and nutrition, health and hygiene training during and after the Civil War. In 1979 UNICEF officially commenced its cooperation with the Government of China to support child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is on the ground in over 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.

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For further information, please contact:

Shantha Bloemen, UNICEF China, +8610 85312610,
Liu Li, Communication Specialist, UNICEF China, +8613701066671,

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