Theirworld works to enhance children's voices
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > Theirworld works with brand studio Saboteur to boost children’s voices

Theirworld works with brand studio Saboteur to boost children’s voices

by Freya Lucas

June 14, 2023

Theirworld, a global children’s charity committed to ending the global education crisis and unleashing the potential of the next generation, has worked with brand studio Saboteur to give very young children a way of making their voices heard as part of the Act For Early Years campaign.


The campaign hopes to get world leaders to “sit up and take notice” of the plight of very young children. In essence, Act For Early Years is a major campaign to tackle a worldwide crisis by calling for urgent quality childcare (sic.) and preschool learning for every child.


“We knew that giving children under five years of age the opportunity to have their say would be a powerful way of getting through to leaders and governments who are letting them down,” a TheirWorld spokesperson said.


Saboteur created a special font that uses children’s writing which features in the Act For Early Years report and campaigning. Children’s drawings and doodles also help to reinforce the message.


“The youngest children are never in the room when big decisions are made,” explained Ben Hewitt, Senior Campaigns Advisor to Theirworld. “They are invisible in decision-making compared to other influential groups in society. Our campaign aims to give a voice to those unable to advocate for themselves.”


Speaking on behalf of London-based Saboteur, Co-Founder Nick Eagleton said: “Theirworld talked to us about children speaking up but not being heard. Despite children being the world’s greatest persuaders, the world is not listening to them.


“Theirworld wanted the voice of children to be in the room, metaphorically – in policy meetings, at governments, at the UN, where it could actually shape change.”


Saboteur looked at existing online fonts that represent children’s writing, but felt they “just weren’t right,” being too neat or stylised and lacking a feeling of spontaneity.


“We wanted to create an identity for the movement that really put children’s voices at the heart of it. By having the handwriting, it’s clear that it’s talking about young children,” explained Saboteur designer Leah Bravo. 

Theirworld worked with project partners Kidogo and Chance for Childhood – along with the Theirworld Edinburgh Birth Cohort – to ask young children in Kenya, Mozambique, Ghana, South Africa and Scotland to write the alphabet and numbers. The result was an amazing array of characters just bursting with life.


During the “painstaking” process of creating the new font, Ms Bravo said the team had to forget the normal conventions of typography, such as letters being level with each other, and to keep consistent with the letters and numbers the children had shared. 


“When we created the font, we didn’t have a baseline, because with kids it’s all over the place,” she explained. “If you tidy it up, it loses the energy.”


“The font is instantly disarming. Nothing is neat about it and you can feel the children’s anger through it. It has a lot of energy about it, which is something we wanted to capture.”


Mr Eagleton agreed, saying “when you use the font and start typing, it’s like another voice. There’s a magic to it. It leaps off the page and the screen.”


The font has four versions of each letter of the alphabet available in both upper and lower case. Two of the fonts represent the voices of children aged three to five years and the other two are for over-fives. There is also the option to print the letters backwards, as young children often do.


As well as letters, the children added drawings, doodles and scribbles – with Ms Bravo being able to incorporate those for use in the Act For Early Years campaign messaging.


“When we saw the writing, the letters were never by themselves. There were always little doodles to the side. Kids instinctively draw other things – little messages in themselves. That was something that we knew would become an important part,” she explained. 


The children were also asked to visually express their feelings about leaders not doing enough to listen to the voices of under-fives. The result was some angry faces and even – appropriately – dinosaurs.


The font has already been used to illustrate the Act For Early Years report, which was published last month, and is already having an impact. 


“We have only just started using the font and illustrations and already the campaign is getting noticed,” Mr Hewitt said. 


“Our partner organisations around the world are excited to share the campaign content and tell us they love the dynamic and childlike look of the campaign font. Our job now is to get noticed by world leaders and decision-makers.”


Learn more about Theirworld here

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