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On-site nurseries: helping Jordanian mothers at work

11 Nov 2016

Better Work Jordan and local stakeholders are calling for the creation of workplace nurseries to help mothers continue their careers amid a challenging environment that prevents more women from joining the job market.

11 November 2016.

MADABA, Jordan – Every morning Suhair Shwairah and her one-and-a-half-year-old son Mohammad leave their home on the outskirts of Jordan’s central town Madaba and wait on their doorstep for the bus that will take them to a local garment factory.

While the 26-year-old data entry clerk gears up for another day at work at Al Safi Garment Factory in the Dleilet Al Hamaideh area, Mohammad gets ready to spend his time at the company’s nursery.

In August, the factory opened an on-site nursery for the children of its employees. The project has turned out to be a success, with some 30 toddlers now attending the crèche daily.

“The nursery changed our lives because no one could tend to my child before,” Shwairah said. “Now we feel very comfortable. Mohammad is very happy at the nursery. He sees his friends there.”

Article 72 of the country’s Labour Law stipulates that any firm which employs at least twenty female workers who together have at least ten children under the age of four, should provide a day care facility at the workplace, said Abdallah Al Jbour, Director of Inspection at Jordan’s Ministry of Labour.

But the main challenge so far has been turning the article of the national law into local action.

Better Work Jordan (BWJ) —a joint project of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC)—and local stakeholders are campaigning for the creation of workplace nurseries to help mothers continue their careers in a country that registers a very low female employment rate, standing at 12.7 per cent out of a workforce of about 1.7 million.

Lara Ayoub, co-founder of Jordan’s NGO SADAQA, which calls for the establishment of daycare facilities inside local companies, said one of the reasons women are absent from the job market is the lack of on-site nurseries.

“So, we are trying to promote a woman and family-friendly environment by applying this article,” she said.

Women make up 70 per cent of the workforce in the garment sector, said Tareq Abu Qaoud, BWJ programme manager, adding that establishing nurseries would further encourage women to join either this or another job sector, while also having a positive impact on the enterprises’ profitability and the country’s economy.

The positive impact on the performance of employees is tangible.

“The presence of the nursery makes me feel reassured,” Shwairah said. “This reflects on my work and makes me feel enthusiastic because my child is left in trustworthy hands. The effect has been so positive that even my superiors and the director have noticed it. Before the nursery opened, I used to take a lot of holidays and leave days because there was nowhere I could take my child.”

The factory CEO, Farhan Ifram, said the decision to open the nursery came both from article 72 of the Labour Law, as well as a response to social responsibility towards mothers working in the company.

“When BWJ was first established in 2008, there were no on-site nurseries in the garment sector,” Abu Qaoud said. “In 2016, there are six. This is a positive step in the right direction and a success for the sector. But in order to fully abide by article 72 of Jordan’s Labour Law, there needs to be four times this number.”

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