Childcare for working mothers in Rwanda
In Kamonyi village in southern Rwanda, farmer Sylvie Nyiransabimana stands tall and wields a long wooden-handled hoe. She is digging small holes to plant vegetables – a chore she once had to do with a baby on her back. Without child-care options, mothers like Sylvie had no choice but to try to manage working while taking care of their children. “It was extremely hard,” the mother of two recalls. “Today I don’t get as tired and am much more productive.”
Relief came last year when Sylvie and seven other mothers formed a daycare group they named Utunyange (Angels). The Angels work in pairs: two mothers take turns on weekdays from 7 am to noon looking after all 12 infant children of the mothers in the group, including Sylvie’s one-year-old daughter Ingabire. The daycare is situated in a group member’s home, which was renovated for proper sanitary conditions with support from CARE’s early childhood development (ECD) project.
It takes a village
Sylvie’s group is one of more than 80 home-based groups formed in the area to help families care for children under age three, while freeing their time to work and increase their household income. Many children who participate in home-based daycares come from families too poor to pay the required $3 a year for government health insurance. CARE pays the health insurance premium for numerous group members, including one mother from the Angels. CARE has also partnered with community health workers to monitor the children’s health and nutrition once a month.
Between the ages of three and six, the children transition from home-based care to one of nine CARE-supported ECD centers where they learn to draw, count and learn the alphabet in preparation for elementary school. CARE also helps organize parent-teacher associations and trains parents on child rights and the benefits of family planning.
A better future
According to Joseph Ngamije, CARE’s local ECD project manager, “Seventy-nine per cent of ECD children from last year now attend primary school and most are girls. Each year the numbers continue to increase as more parents get involved in their children’s education.”
Adequate stimulation in a nurturing environment is essential for brain development during the first six years of life, and ECD services are a proven solution to help fight malnutrition and make young children more socially and emotionally healthy. The three-year pilot phase has proven so successful that there are plans to double the scale of the program over the next two years.