History

Aflatoun started in Mumbai, India, in 1991 as an action research project by Jeroo Billimoria who at that time was working at the Tata School of Social Studies. She began a project with schools to bring rich and poor children together to learn about each other’s lives.

In 1993 the programme was given new urgency and a broader moral imperative when inter-ethnic riots shook Mumbai. The programme responded by focusing on combating prejudice and discrimination through rights education. Expansion out of the city and into rural areas led to another key influence. The most entrepreneurial children were leaving the countryside and becoming street children and child labourers in Mumbai. To harness their energy and creativity at home, savings groups were incorporated and have remained a defining programme feature since 2001.

The global era began in 2005 when Aflatoun (Child Savings International) incorporated in Amsterdam. Jeroo BIllimoria, now a globally recognised social entrepreneur, used her Skoll Foundation Award to bring social and financial education to the world. To test whether the programme would work outside India, organisations in ten countries launched the programme. Once the Aflatoun programme model was developed, a campaign for Social and Financial Education was launched in March 2008 by the then Princess Maxima of the Netherlands. The campaign’s ambitious goals were to reach one million children in 75 countries within three years and these targets were exceeded.

In 2011, Aflatoun broadened its curricula by providing a programme for young people called Aflateen and, a year later later, for toddlers called Aflatot. In 2016 Aflatoun International also announced that its new strategic targets would be 20 million children and young people reached by 2020, ensuring that the next generation gets along and gets ahead in life.

The Aflatoun character represents a fireball from outer space. The name derives from India, where children named it after a fun-loving, good-hearted and slightly mischievous Bollywood movie character. Aflatoun is also the Arabic name for Plato, the Greek philosopher who promoted an idealistic notion of citizenship. Both seemed a fitting influence, so the name stuck.

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