Women’s Economic Empowerment through Community-Led Childcare Centers
This post was written by Soma Kumari Rana and Lauren Riley.
In Nepal, women are responsible for the majority of reproductive activities, such as childcare, household duties and even agricultural labor, to produce food for the family and as supplemental income. In rural areas with predominantly poor households, this burden is exacerbated by the large number of men who must migrate to find work.
A lack of resources, such as time, labor and financing, is a key barrier to gender equality, which must be addressed to ensure women are fully able to participate in income-generating activities. With this in mind, the International Development Enterprises’ (iDE) Nepal team pitched a way to provide a transformative solution to this need for resources: a community-led childcare center. An initial survey of the rural Nepal community chosen for the project found that 90% of parents expressed the need for childcare solutions, sparking the idea for the project. Funded by the Paul Polak Innovations Award, this project piloted the use of community-led childcare centers as a means to improving the livelihoods of women and children from the families of poor and marginalized communities through the provision of affordable and local childcare services.
The addition of childcare centers to support agricultural entrepreneurs is just one way in which iDE Nepal is able to ensure programming is gender transformative by directly benefiting working mothers and creating additional, decent jobs in the care economy of rural Nepal. Set up as a social enterprise, phase one of the childcare center included the subsidized cost of setting up a safe, educational space for children in close proximity to existing aggregation centers. A childcare center management committee composed of community members was established and caregivers were recruited and trained to ensure quality care for the children and peace of mind for parents who utilize the service.
Additional opportunities arose from the creation of the childcare center as the community gathered around this common goal, which included practical agricultural learning sessions for mothers while their children were being cared for and conversations around nutrition for children and families. The project also saw support from the local municipality, which provided additional funding for the pilot project and the opportunity for community members to discuss childcare challenges with their local government. In addition, local agriculture cooperatives facilitate childcare centers to make it an important business hub. The project is also linking other stakeholders to support the mother groups to establish pickle enterprises and greenhouses for seasonal and off-season vegetables production. The childcare center coordinated with the local government for input support for the kitchen garden establishment; most of the parents established a kitchen garden with crop diversity and an additional tomato playhouse. Excess production is sold in the local market. This is helpful for the family diet and expenses for the income in the care center.
Currently, the project is exploring ways to ensure the childcare center can be self-sustaining in partnership with women’s agriculture cooperative members. The childcare management committee is planning for an interaction meeting with private farmer group members and local government stakeholders. Future plans for the childcare center propose the expansion of the center into a hub for women’s economic empowerment to ensure multiple streams of income, increased and sustained use by community members and long-term financial stability. You can learn more about the outcomes of this pilot project from the perspective of iDE Nepal’s clients in this video.