In a country where 25 percent of girls drop out of school due to pregnancy and parenthood related issues, a baby care facility comes as a blessing to mothers who want to continue with education and pursue their careers.
Laying on a vast land of 250 square kilometers, the Bidibidi refugee settlement is home to 227,000 refugees, 83 percent of mothers, and children. In June 2019 alone, 131 babies were born in zone 3. Many of the mothers are still of school-going age or lack higher education.
In the quest to skill refugee mothers, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in partnership with United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHRC) set up Yoyo Vocational Institute aimed at skilling refugees with hands-on skills in tailoring, hairdressing, carpentry, and many other life skills.
Unlike many other institutes of learning, Yoyo Vocational Institute located in zone 3 is equipped with a baby care facility where mothers can leave their babies while they head to class. According to City Florence, a mother of one, the facility has helped her to pay attention in her tailoring class while she is sure that her baby is receiving care.
Investing in programs that target the needs of mothers and children has the potential to improve refugee rates of school attainment, increase their earnings and hence lead to a range of multigenerational benefits, according to humanitarian agencies.
Grace Drateru, the baby caretaker at the facility, welcomed the idea of having babies in the daycare center as their mothers attend class.
She believes this effort would help the mothers remain focused in their class activities and hence build a brighter future for their children since they would be better able to access employment from the skills they have attained.
As Uganda’s population increases, the number of mothers are growing, who are likely to face significant financial and time-related obstacles that make it difficult for them to complete their education, compete in their working space and build their careers.
Victoria Tabu, a 22-year-old mother from South Sudan, said that having a daycare facility has helped her remain focused on her training.
“I am able to work well and in the future, I will use these skills to make money and provide for my family,” Tabu said.
“I want to be a very good tailor and start my own business in the future,” she added
“This innovation has helped reduce the rate of school drop-outs in the refugee settlement and zone 3 as a whole. Since the institute’s opening, 63 mothers have been able to pursue their studies and gain life skills that will help them survive in the country”. Said Daniel Opita from the Norwegian Refugee Council
The issue of motherhood does not only affect school attendance. Many women have also lost their jobs due to motherhood.
Some are forced to choose between being mothers or employees, and in many cases after the breastfeeding period, some are left jobless.
On 1st July, Uganda Breweries Limited introduced a policy that gives their female employees a fully paid 6 months maternity leave instead of the nationally mandated 3 months. This was in the new global family leave policy rollout from Diageo, the parent company.
A long period of maternity leave enables mothers to build an infant connection with their babies and also increases their effectiveness when they return to work
Government agencies have also come up to address issues of motherhood in workplaces. The Uganda Revenue Authority tower in Nakawa also provides a nursery for breastfeeding mothers.