14 May Living up to #feminist and inclusive innovation ideals: offering safe and affordable childcare for young parents

By Fabienne Pierre-Jacques, Gender Lead and Nadia Ponce Morales, Talent Acquisition Business Development Manager, EQWIP HUBs

EQWIP HUBs, powered by Canada World Youth and Youth Challenge International, works in six countries, Bolivia, Ghana, Indonesia, Peru, Senegal and Tanzania, to promote young women’s economic empowerment by developing the assets they need to find decent employment and foster self-employment and entrepreneurship.  Working with our partners and volunteers, we are addressing the disconnect between fast-paced changes in developing and emerging economies and the slow evolution in providing essential services to support women’s participation in economic activities. One of these measures is the provision of safe and affordable childcare. This type of service is especially important during the crucial phase when young women and men are seeking additional training and support for skill development and professional network building.  Addressing these gaps has an enormous potential to build an enabling and inclusive environment for young women and to value unpaid care work.  By providing this service, we are hoping to inspire policies that will make this essential public service available to young families globally.

Childcare services are situated at the intersection of the issues resulting from a growing young population in cities (over a billion children today live in cities and towns) and the lack of services. Building urban environments where young parents can thrive will determine both the likelihood of achieving sustainable and inclusive growth in cities (which will be home to 60% of the world’s population by 2030) and reaching Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #5 targets. Structural barriers, unequal power relations, and deep-rooted, longstanding discrimination all impact the likelihood that girls and young women will enroll in school, stay there until completion and benefit from equitable learning environments. This has dramatic implications for gender poverty gaps, especially as young adults, where young women are in their peak productive and reproductive age.  Women and young women still face high rates of unemployment and are amongst the most vulnerable workers.

Women take on an extra ten or more weeks per year of unpaid care work in countries where the care load is heavy and unequal and face unequal access to basic services.  Inadequate childcare contributes to falling female labour force participation rates, as globally women spend three times as many hours in unpaid care work as men[1].

This lack of support compromises their ability to balance their participation in the economy with their family realities.

The need for childcare services is evident, particularly in urban settings where EQWIP HUBs are located. The EQWIP HUBs participants, for the most part, are young immigrants, coming either from rural areas within the country or the region, who cannot rely on grandparents or family members to ensure safe and affordable childcare. Even though cities drive economic growth, contributing to around one third of the countries’ GDP, these environments offer limited opportunities for youth economic inclusion. Moreover, gender-based cultural norms and practices which sees young women as caregivers often results in them being responsible for the care of their younger siblings, nieces and nephews.

Within the context of EQWIP HUBs, Gender Specialists in Ottawa and locally, as well as young Canadian volunteers, have worked side by side to address this pressing challenge to young women’s participation in the training, support services and other initiatives provided by the project. Accordingly, inclusive recruitment strategies have been developed. For example, in Peru all potential participants, men and women, are informed of the existence of the childcare services/subsidies. In other countries, adjustments to training have also been made to ensure that young parents or caregivers can make use of childcare services and breaks have been built-in to allow young mothers to breastfeed and attend the specific needs of babies or very young children. In several countries, childcare is provided in different forms ranging from traditional daycare, such as on-site childcare availability with a paid childcare provider and services in partners’ premises, to subsidies for at-home care.  One must note that to promote the concept that childcare is a shared responsibility, it must be defined as a service for parents, not just young women.

Consistent with EQWIP HUBs’ asset-based approach that builds on existing community services, we have prioritized the use of pre-existing childcare services of partners or the establishment of services in collaboration with organizations. Such measures will ensure the sustainability of the services after our current project ends.

However, these measures still face many challenges. For instance, working with partners who already have such facilities with their own schedules means adjustments must be made by both parties.  EQWIP HUBs’ training schedules don’t always match the opening hours offered by the childcare services.  Adaptation takes time and resources. In this context, EQWIP HUBs’ invaluable project contribution is the involvement of young volunteers, both Canadian and local, to ensure that staff and partners can document, measure and understand the success factors for driving such adaptations. We are constantly looking for young talents who can help us catalyze change by sharing their skills, bringing new perspectives, and supporting social innovation that can change the lives of young parents and their families around the world.

[1] http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/economic-empowerment/facts-and-figures

About the authors

Fabienne Pierre-Jacques – Director, Monitoring and Evaluation at CWY and Gender Lead at EQWIP HUBs.
Fabienne possesses a strong track record supporting youth engagement and a commitment to community-lead development. Social justice and women’s rights have guided both her paid and volunteer work, as demonstrated by her various positions in women’s groups including as Program Director at Girls Action Foundation in Montreal and Director Socio-Economic Development at the Women’s Ministry in Haiti. As Civil Society Coordinator for the Lutheran World Federation and Country Representative for the International Cooperation for Development, she supported the implementation of health, agricultural, media and capacity building projects all over Haiti. Though of Haitian origin, she grew up in Montreal and holds a degree in Sociology from McGill University.

Nadia Ponce Morales – Talent Acquisition Business Development Manager, EQWIP HUBS
Nadia has over 12 years experience in the international development sector. An original member of the design team for the EQWIP HUBs project, she is now spearheading the development of new partnerships and initiatives that will attract young talents to volunteer at one of EQWIP HUBs 18 international locations. Having previously worked for global leaders in sustainable development, such as Canada World Youth and SUCO, she successfully applied her knowledge and expertise in the creation of initiatives and projects that benefit youth and women in over 15 countries. Nadia holds a Masters in International Relations and a Graduate Diploma in Management and Sustainable Development.

Join Canadian leaders in global youth development, Canada World Youth and Youth Challenge International, to get your real-world experience while sharing your expertise and collaborating with young people around the globe. Learn more about how you can help make a positive impact in youth livelihoods with EQWIP HUBs at one of our 18 urban locations in Bolivia, Ghana, Indonesia, Peru, Senegal and Tanzania.