TACOMA, Washington — In 2016, the World Bank provided $50 million in funding for a project aimed at reducing youth unemployment in Burkina Faso. The Youth Employment and Skill Development Project provides training and temporary jobs. The project teaches basic skills and provides a six-month employment contract at public work sites. The training translates to workers gaining the required knowledge to carry out tasks involved in “urban development and roadbuilding.” Over 46,000 youth have participated in the program with women making up more than half of the project’s beneficiaries.
The project’s organizers did not expect to have the number of female applicants it did. As more and more women began work, an unanticipated issue gained attention from the program supervisors: lack of childcare for working mothers. Many women lied on their applications about having children and/or being pregnant. They knew this would immediately disqualify them from being chosen for work.
A lottery system chooses beneficiaries of the program and with 40% of Burkina Faso’s population living below the national poverty line, many were desperate for this employment opportunity. Project leaders watched children sit in the sweltering sun to nap and play while their mothers worked. Meanwhile, mothers worked on the dangerous construction sites with infants strapped to their backs and older children missing school to care for their younger siblings. They knew something had to change. Looking for a solution, the idea of mobile child care was born.
The idea of mobile child care was quite simple: set up a mobile unit that provided a safe place for children during their mother’s working hours. The unit could follow the women from site to site. It offered peace of mind for mothers and accessibility to nurse infants or check in on the children throughout the day. The pilot mobile unit began in the town of Manga. It was so successful that more units began popping up in other communes. Burkina Faso now has more than 20 mobile childcare units. The units consist of large, UNICEF donated tents, minimal furniture, toys, books and food. All supplies get bundled up, put in a trailer and transported by a three-wheeler from site to site.
The World Bank’s Early Learning Partnership (ELP) and Umbrella Facility for Gender Equality, along with local partners, contribute funding to sustain the mobile units. Mothers pay a small payment monthly for their children’s enrollment. The money provides ingredients for nutritious food for the children to eat while they are in the daycare. Although there is not yet formal analytical data to support the childcare program’s efficacy, focus groups and interviews with workers offer only positive feedback.
Benefits of Mobile Childcare
Here are five ways mobile childcare is benefitting the children and mothers of Burkina Faso:
- Pregnant women who worked in labor-intensive jobs for public works became paid childcare providers for the children participating in the mobile care program. Historically, acknowledging childcare as “real work” is rare and therefore typically is an unpaid job. This new role allows pregnant women a safe alternative to working on the public works’ sites while still contributing financially to their families.
- Childcare units started a “cooperative initiative with the Ministry of Health and local clinics to monitor child’s growth and ensure vaccinations.” Mothers report healthier, more alert and overall happier children.
- Early Childhood Education instructors from the Ministry of Education supervise all childcare providers. Specialists in early childhood learning developed fun and engaging learning activities for children in the mobile childcare units.
- Caregivers offer parents helpful resources, teaching them proper hygiene, nutrition and emotional well-being for their children.
- Working mothers’ productivity continues to increase. Women report feeling less stress as they are no longer attempting to care for their children while also working.
As other countries watched Burkina Faso’s success with mobile childcare, some began their own. Cameroon has four mobile childcare units; Madagascar plans to launch 278 units throughout the country. Ethiopia and The Democratic Republic of the Congo are anticipating mobilizing childcare units soon. The women of Burkina Faso continue to benefit from mobile childcare after their six-month employment contracts with public works end. Many mothers report being able to save money during their six-month employment because they had the option of childcare.
With their savings, some women are starting their own businesses, selling shea butter, making clothing and so much more. This revolutionary mobile childcare proves its efficacy in so many ways. It has empowered women and children in Burkina Faso and beyond. Offering hope, stability and bright futures could bring a whole new generation of world changers.
– Rachel Proctor