The community child-care centre in Sangharsa Nagar, Bardiya, was established to help women share the burden of unpaid care work, taking care of their children alone, so that they could engage in various income-generation activities. The center was established in 2015 with the support of ActionAid and was recently (on April 2018) handed over to the local government.
The centre has eased up the burden of working women in great lengths, says Balkumari Chaudhari, a member from the women cooperative of Sangharsa Nagar and also the caretaker of the child-care centre. “Otherwise it was impossible for women to leave their kids alone when they had to go to the jungle or fields and other works.” Taking their kids to work consumed a lot of their time during work as they had tend to them from time to time, and leaving their kids home was a difficult choice as they would be worried about their kids all the time during work and thus could also not commit to their work properly. So, in most cases, many mothers had to quit working to take care of their children.
Since the establishment of the child-care centre, mothers have been able to move freely without worrying about the safety of their children. Many women in the village are involved in productive work, vegetable farming, animal husbandry, and so on, that require them to work in the fields, to graze their animals in the jungle, etc. So, every morning at eight, mothers drop their children off at the centre before they begin their day’s work.
"Before we had the facility of the child-care centre, I had to carry my son with me to everywhere I went, and I couldn’t concentrate on my work at all,” says Aarati Tharu, a resident of Sangharsa Nagar.
“Imagine carrying a bundle of firewood in one hand and your child in the other, and then chasing the goats with all that load.” She has a two-year-old son, who she leaves in the capable hands of the centre. She says she doesn’t have to worry about anything when her son is in the centre.
“I would be more concerned if I had to leave him back home—god knows, when he might crawl out to the streets and get himself into trouble. Aarati makes a living out of goat farming and vegetable farming.
The centre has made things much convenient especially for mothers who have no family members to take care of their kids in their absence. Rampyari Chaudhari is a member of the Hariyali Krishak Samuha, and is one of the mothers who has had to rely on the centre’s services as well.
“My husband also leaves early in the morning for work, so when I had to work, I had to carry my son with me, because leaving him alone was not an option.” But now while her son happily spends his day at the centres, Rampyari can finish her household chores without any distraction, go to the market to sell the vegetables, work in her vegetable farm, tend to her goats. The centre closes at four in the evening.
Even the kids are so fond of the centre that, guardians say, they themselves hurry the parents to take them to the centre every morning. The centre is a knowledge park where they learn new and exciting things. Parents beam with surprise and joy when their kids who cannot even utter full words, sing songs to them that they have learned during their time at the centre.
“Children have learned many good manners and healthy habits as well,” adds Reema Tharu, “things like how they should always wash hands with soap before eating and after using toilet. Whatever they’ve learned in the centre, they make it a point to tell us all about it when we’re home.” Parents have also noticed improvement in their children’s health due to such healthy habits, which has reduced health problems like diarrhoea. Her son is three years old now. And next year, he’ll graduate from the centre and will enroll in the public school.
The centre has thus succeeded in becoming a sanctuary for these kids and a motivational factor for working mothers to devote their skills to become successful entrepreneurs.
“We hope that the centre continues to extend its services to support mothers like us in days to come,” says Rampyari.