High-quality and affordable childcare services are crucial to raising family incomes, improving the standard of living, and providing a safe place for children to learn, play, and grow. However, these services are often out of reach for many families due to high costs, inconvenient locations, and inadequate hours. During working hours, parents often must rely on friends, neighbours, and family members who may not have the proper training or skills required to care for children. In some instances, they have to bring their children to their workplace, or forego employment altogether.
The Childcare4All campaign seeks to lift up the work happening at the country level to raise awareness and advocate for political commitments to strengthening childcare systems. The new partner blog series highlights the challenges to building stronger childcare systems across different countries and contexts as well as the work of local partners to overcome those barriers. This post shares what Kidogo is doing at the intersection of early childhood development and women’s economic empowerment, the barriers they face in Kenya, and potential solutions to expanding access to quality childcare services. Based in Kenya, Kidogo has been working to make high quality and affordable childcare accessible for low-income families through a social enterprise model.
In Kenya, many working mothers in low-income communities struggle to find high-quality, affordable options and face a difficult decision about where to leave their children five years and under when they go to work. Unable to lean on relatives for support with childcare, many parents who have temporary or part-time work must leave their children home alone—sometimes tied to furniture, in the care of older siblings or neighbours, or resort to informal and unregulated childcare centres, often located in people’s homes. In the best-case scenario, children are left at an informal childcare centre (i.e., babycare) in the local community where an untrained caregiver provides supervision for 8-12 hours per day. However, these centres are typically poorly lit and ventilated. They usually lack toys, amenities, and educational programming—sometimes exposing children to various health and safety risks.
Kidogo’s solution is an innovative social franchising model where they identify, train and support female entrepreneurs (Mamapreneurs) to start or grow their own child care micro-businesses in their local communities. Unlike most NGOs that operate traditional charitable aid projects, Kidogo applies an entrepreneurial model that produces innovative, sustainable and replicable impacts on children and women. As part of the Kidogo network, Mamapreneurs receive ongoing intensive training and mentoring on early childhood care and education, business operations, health and nutrition to improve the quality of services offered to young children.
While the issue of childcare as a policy priority has gained momentum in Kenya, there are significant barriers that must be overcome.
- Economic pressures on families, exacerbated by COVID-19 pandemic: Some of the world’s most marginalised women reside in East Africa’s slums. COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on these women’s livelihoods. They work in the informal sector with no paid leave, social protection, or ability to work from home. Affordable, quality childcare would free these working mothers up to earn steady income for their families.
- Lack of value placed on play-based childcare: While early childhood education has been gaining increased attention and focus by the government, quality ECD and childcare remain unknown and therefore are not prioritized by parents and caregivers.
- Lack of licensing, certification and minimum standards: Unable to register as a business, centres have no oversight, training or standards and exist in the shadows, leading to poor quality, unsanitary and unsafe environments.
- Lack of opportunities for professional growth for entrepreneurial careworking women in slums: Careworkers have no more than a primary school education. They are seen as second-class workers with no career advancement pathways to maintain a quality and profitable business.
- Advocacy and funding in silos: In the care ecosystem advocacy and funding often exist in silos. Advocacy does not take into account the lived experience of careworkers or coordinate between sector actors. Funding often will include lifting up women’s economic empowerment issues, but leave out the quality care component even though care is at the intersection and linked to these issues.
As children receive physical, social, and cognitive stimulation and early learning experiences, they meet their developmental milestones and enter primary school with a strong foundation. In addition, adolescent siblings who previously carried the brunt of child-rearing are able to return to school, mothers work with “peace of mind”, and Mamapreneurs earn a dignified livelihood.
Recognizing that the childcare crisis does not exist in a vacuum, Kidogo continues to work with partners in Kenya and globally to elevate childcare challenges and address them through innovative policy and regulatory solutions while expanding the Kidogo model to support more communities.
If you’re interested in sharing the challenges and opportunities to strengthen childcare systems in your country, please email [email protected].
To learn more about the #ChildCare4All campaign, visit https://www.childcare4all.org/