Early Childhood Reporting Fellowship: Inequality in Latin America

April 26, 2022

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Inequality, already a persistent problem across Brazil and Latin America broadly, has only increased over the last two years with the Covid-19 pandemic. Inequality affects the health, education, food security and social and emotional well being of children, families and whole communities. It’s a driving force for migration and is intimately connected to gender, poverty, injustice, and life prospects. Children and their caregivers are at the epicenter of this crisis, but rarely the main focus of media coverage. 

This gap in news coverage is influenced by politics, economics, news industry disruption, and general lack of knowledge of the importance of early childhood development and its relationship to life outcomes. In response, the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, a project of the Columbia Journalism School in New York, is launching a project-based virtual Fellowship for journalists in Brazil and across Latin America to illuminate the effects of inequality on the growth, development and well being of young children. Projects focused on children under age six and their caregivers will be given priority. For Brazilians, projects that tie into the 2022 elections will be given special consideration. 

The Fellowship will run for six months, from mid-May to late-October 2022. 

Twenty journalists will be selected as fellows and each will be awarded $1,500 USD to support their project. In addition, Fellows will be assigned an experienced story mentor to work with, and will participate in monthly webinars featuring regional and international experts in the fields of science, education, public health, and journalism.

Applicants may propose single stories, multi-part series, longform narratives or investigative reports in print, online or broadcast formats. Freelancers, contract and staff journalists are welcome to apply. Applicants must be fluent in either Portuguese or Spanish to be eligible for the fellowship.

Collaborative projects between two or more journalists will not be considered.

Applications will be evaluated on the relevance of their topic; soundness of their approach; the project’s potential impact; previous experience reporting on early childhood issues at local, regional, national or international level; and the applicant’s likelihood of contributing positively to a Fellowship cohort.

Applicants that are able to provide a letter of interest  from a prospective media outlet will be given priority.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Any professional journalist living and working in Latin America who has a demonstrated interest in reporting on young children and their caregivers

  • Applicants must propose a project about young children and/or caregivers that can be completed and scheduled for publication or broadcast by October 31, 2022

  • Applicants must be fluent in either Portuguese or Spanish

  • Applicants must attend at least four out of six monthly webinars during the Fellowship term and participate in monthly conversations with an assigned story mentor

Application Information

  • The application deadline is March 14, 2022

  • A committee will review applications, and applicants will be notified with a decision by April 4, 2022

  • The Fellowship will officially begin with a webinar on April 26, 2022


The Fellowship will be led by Fábio Takahashi, a former editor at the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, where he ran the data journalism desk. Takahashi previously worked as an education reporter at Folha from 2003 to 2016, and helped create Folha’s University Ranking, Brazil’s most comprehensive evaluation of college-level institutions. Takahashi was a Spencer fellow at Columbia University 2016-2017.

He is also the founder and current president of Jeduca (the first association for education reporters in Brazil, the Education Reporters Association), which was launched in 2016. In 2013, he was the first journalist to attend the Executive Leadership Program in Early Childhood Development, a short course at Harvard University. Currently he works as a PR content manager at Loft.


Irene Caselli will serve as a story coach for the Fellowship. She is a multimedia reporter and writer, with over 15 years of experience in radio, TV and print, now focusing on early childhood, reproductive rights, and carers. She is also a senior advisor for The Early Childhood Reporting Initiative at the Dart Center. 

For a decade, Caselli was a foreign correspondent in Latin America, reporting for the BBC, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The New York Times and others. In 2019, she started covering early childhood for The Correspondent. In January 2021, she launched her own newsletter, The First 1,000 Days, where she continues her writing about the first 1,000 days, the foundational period of our lives that is too often overlooked. Caselli published a chapter in “Unbias the News,” a book about how to make journalism more diverse. She produced a documentary on women’s football and gender inequality, and one of her short films on the same subject received a prize for collaborative journalism.

Caselli has been awarded fellowships by the International Women’s Media Foundation, the European Journalism Centre and the Solutions Journalism Network. She speaks six languages (English, Italian, Spanish, German, French, Portuguese), and is now learning Greek. In her free time, she plays with her son Lorenzo.


 Mariana Kotscho will serve as a story mentor for the Fellowship. Kotscho is a journalist with,  has 30 years experience as a reporter and television host, and has worked for several major TV Stations in Brazil, including TV Cultura and TV Globo.

She is the winner of the Vladimir Herzog Award for coverage of human rights issues for Globonews and a volunteer consultant at the Instituto Maria da Penha.

Kotscho created the program "Papo de Mãe," which covers topics related to education, behavior and child health. After 12 years on TV, Papo de Mãe is now UOL's partner website. On TV Globo (Bem Estar), Mariana Kotscho  is a commentator on family relations and violence against women. She is the mother of three teenagers: Laura, Isabel and André.


Paula Perim will serve as a story mentor for the Fellowship. Perim has over 25 years of experience in journalism, strategic communication, branded content, and communication for social causes. She holds a master's degree in Communication and Semiotics from PUC, a bachelor's degree in Journalism from FIAM and Photography studies, all in São Paulo, Brazil. Paula also completed executive courses in Marketing Strategy, at the London School of Economics; Publishing Magazines, at Yale University; Executive Leadership in Early Childhood Development, at Harvard University, and studies in Behavioral Economics and in Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC).

From 2017 to 2021, Paula worked as Communication and Awareness Director at Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal Foundation, one of the most important organizations focused on Early Childhood in Brazil. Before that, Paula worked for 17 years at Editora Globo as editor-in-chief at Crescer (focused on parenting) and later became the publisher of a group of magazines: Casa e Jardim (decorating and gardening), Casa e Comida (cooking), Galileu (science and youth behavior), in addition to Crescer.  She is the author of the book "101 ideas to enjoy with your child - before he/she turns 10" and editorial director of the books: "Babies of Brazil - A portrait of Brazil in photos and stories of 27 children" (partnership with UNICEF) and "Crescer por um mundo melhor” (“Growing up for a better world”). Paula began her career working as a producer at MTV-Brasil. She is the proud mother of Júlia and Beatriz.


 Daniela Tófoli will serve as a story mentor for the Fellowship. Tófoli is an editorial director at the Brazilian publishing house Editora Globo, where she oversees work on Marie Claire, Quem, Crescer, Galileu, TechTudo, Casa e Jardim, Vida de Bicho and Monet. She is a member of Associação Nacional de Editores de Revistas, the Brazilian National Association of Magazine Editors. Her work has focused on the areas of parenting, family, health and education.

She has been an invited speaker on the subjects of maternity for fathers, as well as mothers and businesses. She is a weekly columnist for Rádio CBN and author of the blog “Mãe de Tween,” about pre-teens, on the website of the newspaper O Globo. She is author of the book "Pré-Adolescente: Um Guia Para Entender Seu Filho” (“Pre-adolescent: A Guide to Understanding Your Child”). Tófoli is a graduate of the faculty of communication at Casper Libero College, a private university in São Paulo, and completed a magazine publishing course at Yale University. She is also the mother of 12-year-old Helena.


This Fellowship program is part of “The Early Childhood Reporting Initiative: Covering Trauma, Resilience and the Developing Brain,” a multi-year Dart Center training program to improve news coverage of early childhood development around the world. This initiative has been underwritten by the Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal Foundation (Brazil), the Bernard van Leer Foundation (Netherlands) and The Two Lilies Fund (United States).

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