Not Just For Kids: How Day Care Centers Help Women Participate

Not Just For Kids: How Day Care Centers Help Women Participate

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Susan Ogwengo saw a problem in her community that was preventing women like her from fulfilling their potential. “I had often wondered what women were supposed to do with their children when they went back to work,” she said.  

Ultimately, many women in places like Kibera, one of the slums around Nairobi, never return to paid employment after having children. This lack of support for mothers has a significant negative impact on individual women, but also on the whole community.

It is this limiting of the potential of women to support their societies which makes Sustainable Development Goal 5, gender equality, so crucial. There is compelling evidence that women can be powerful drivers of economic growth, and if women were empowered to participate in the global workforce in the same way as men then global GDP would increase significantly.

Rather than accept the status quo Susan decided to do something about the situation for women in her community. She approached the Kenya Youth Business Trust, a member of Youth Business International, for help.

Susan grew up in a family of 26 children, and her father could not pay for school fees. “In the evening we would come from school, go to the fields to pick vegetables and go to the market to sell, making it even harder to focus on education,” Ogwengo said. "For seven years, I had always wanted to provide cheaper education to disadvantaged children in my community. I shared my desire with friends and relatives and one friend who had a school told me it was possible to start my own business. I dared believe her.”

It was the Kenya Youth Business Trust which provided her with the training and funding (a US$700 loan) to support her business dream.

“We were trained on how to research before starting a business, how to manage our businesses through proper financial management, marketing and how to advertise our businesses,” she said.

Susan describes her business: “Children are provided with food—porridge during morning break, beans and rice for lunch, or sometimes cabbage or mung beans and rice. They are also provided with learning and teaching materials like books, charts, drums during music periods. There is school equipment such as blackboards, desks, tables, mattresses and blankets for baby care.”

Parents pay $3.50 a month for a child to attend the school, well below the rate charged by government-owned schools. The day care looks after around 120 children, and although the business is in its early stages it is clear that there is demand for her services in Kibera.

Susan has made a clear positive contribution to her community and delivered a service that is enabling other Kenyan women to contribute to their nation’s economic development.

“My business has made a huge difference in the slum," Ogwengo said. "It has provided an opportunity to access affordable education and a chance for single parents to go to work without worrying how they will leave their children.”

Susan was recognised as Youth Business International’s Startup Entrepreneur of the Year at an awards event in Dubai, March 2015. This story is part of a series which spotlights leading young innovators to support the Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Awards, launched by Unilever in partnership with Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and in collaboration with Ashoka. To find out more about the Awards and the Global goals for Sustainable Development, head to changemakers.com/globalgoals2015.

To follow the conversation on Twitter, search #GlobalGoals for a #BrightFuture.