Children’s daycare and working mothers’ dilemma
According to section 94 (1.2) of Bangladesh Labour Law 2006, every establishment having more than 40 female workers or more must provide and maintain a suitable room or rooms for the use of children under the age of six years
“I used to work with a development organisation. When my first child was born my husband brought my mother-in-law to stay with us. She died when I was pregnant with my second child after three years. This time my mother came to live with us. She died when my daughter was only two. There were not many daycare centres at the time and mine was a travelling job. Finally in 2012 I quit. My son is 16 now, and my daughter 12. I never thought of myself being a stay-at-home wife or mother. I had dreams,” the last sentence came with a sigh.
Afroza Rahman, a former student of Dhaka University, a debater and a star-gazer in her words, related her story. She lives in the capital’s Chankharpul with her family. Like Afroza, there are hundreds of women who have to quit their jobs after having a child due to family pressure, uncooperative workplaces and, on top of everything, not having daycare facilities.
Farida Yasmin, who works as a domestic help in the capital’s Khilgaon area, said she used to work in a readymade garment factory before she became a mother. The factory did not have any daycare facility and she had nobody to attend to her child during her absence. She had to quit the job and started working at people’s houses, that too only where she could take the child with her.
“I could have had a decent life for myself and my child with that job in a factory,” Farida said.
Daycare centres, privately run or in-house, are a big factor for working mother, especially for the mothers in urban areas who live in nuclear families. Although there are few private and government daycare centres across the country, either the quality of those establishments is very poor or the people and nurses in charge are barely trained to raise children. Many of those facilities are very expensive, too.
Many women suffer as their employers do not provide them with the facilities they entitled by the law.
This is not only about women empowerment but also a matter of freedom and choice of an individual. The pattern of urbanisation we are witnessing right now requires these facilities
According to section 94 (1.2) of Bangladesh Labour Law 2006, every establishment having more than 40 female workers or more must provide and maintain a suitable room or rooms for the use of children under the age of six years. It further states that such rooms shall provide adequate accommodation, be adequately lighted and ventilated and maintained in a clean and sanitary condition and shall be under the charge of woman trained or experienced in the care of children and infants.
Only a handful of organisations comply with the law. Most of them are large garment factories, banks or multinational NGOs. International Finance Corporation (IFC) conducted a survey in November 2019 based on 306 organisations. Each of the employers had more than 40 female workers. The survey found there are only 23 per cent offers some form of childcare solution to their employees while another 16 per cent have been planning to do so. As many as 61 per cent of the 306 employers do not have any plan of providing childcare solutions to their employees.
Professor Shah Ehsan Habib of the Department of Sociology of Dhaka University said, “This is not only about women empowerment but also a matter of freedom and choice of an individual. The pattern of urbanisation we are witnessing right now requires these facilities. Unfortunately, we could not create these services for women yet. The state has responsibilities to ensure women’s right to freedom and her choice of livelihood. The government is not quite paying attention to this issue.”
Despite this unfavorable environment, many mothers choose to continue their jobs. Many children due to the absence of both of their parents suffer various physical and mental difficulties. Having no institutional training or being unaware of appropriate knowledge of raising children caregiver, mostly domestic help, fail to pay proper attention to the children’s cognitive development and socialisation process.
According to the 2016-2017 Labour Force Survey, around 20 million women work in different organisations across the country. Yet the number of daycare centres is very low
A working mother living in Dhanmondi area of the capital who doesn’t want to be named said, last year she suddenly discovered her child did not make eye contact while talking and was very moody.
“He is only four, but he was behaving like an older man- not talking much or playing, just sitting in the window starring outside. Initially I thought it would be okay gradually. But one day I had to go to work for 2 hours on a weekend. When I said I will be back in 2 hours, he replied ‘Doesn’t matter. You are always gone anyways.’ I suddenly realised he holding up things inside. I had to take him to a child psychiatrist as things got worse,” she said.
Professor Habib said, “Our society or state does not take children rights into cognizance. It’s on paper only. First of all the caregiver must be well trained to guide the children with love and affection and to provide parental care, which we could not ensure. It needs a rigorous curriculum or proper training. We do not bother about the children’s cognitive development, socialisation or peer groups. I believe this matter remains very neglected by the government. This must be addressed with much care as it shapes the future of our country. The government must regard this issue meticulously.”
“We need trained people, not bureaucrats, to design policies regarding this problem,” he added.
Another new mother Shahana Parvin who is a teacher at a private university pointed out that appointing a skilled caregiver or nurse would ease the struggle of working mother.
“The government can design policy to train nurses on childcare and create opportunity to appoint them in private organisations and at family level which may expand their working opportunity as well,” she added.
According to the 2016-2017 Labour Force Survey, around 20 million women work in different organisations across the country. Yet the number of daycare centres is very low. Md Muhibuzzaman, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Women and Children Affairs said there are 119 daycare centres running under the ministry in various office areas such as Motijheel, Ashulia, Mohakhali and so on. There are some private daycare facilities as well but those are quite expensive for general people.
Asked about the implementation of Child Day Care Centre Act 2021 and the provisions of providing childcare facilities to female employees, he said, “We already passed the law and waiting for the regulations to implement it. Besides we have a project for running daycare centres at Motijheel, Mohakhali, Ashulia and other office areas. We need some time to implement the act in a full-fledged manner. We can bring all in a framework after the regulations are finalised.”
Although it is instructed to finalise the regulations within six months afterenacting the law, the regulations are yet to be worked out.
“You know, how it works. It cannot be done within given time as there are many formalities such as discussing over the matter with the secretary committee, law department, and other department. We hope we will finalise it after Eid,” he further elaborated.