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The Financial Express

Conundrum most Bangladeshi working mothers face


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Representational image — UNICEF Representational image — UNICEF

At a time when the women in countries like Bangladesh are proving their worth joining almost every field in society, it seems, professional atmosphere suits only the ones who have no children. That’s largely because, daycare facilities at and near workplaces are rare in the country.

Given the growing number of nuclear families, it’s increasingly becoming difficult for working mothers to continue their jobs. Thus, many have to stop their career once they give birth to babies, to carry out the most sacred duties of motherhood. Some mothers are compelled to compromise on upbringing of their children as they cannot afford to quit jobs.

Shiuly Nasrin, an employee of a food and beverage company, is struggling with a one and half-year-old kid, since her family consists of only one more member, her husband, who is a public servant.

“It’s hard to find a trustworthy person who would look after my child. None of us is in a position to quit job as we have to repay a 10-year-long home loan,” she said. As a mother, she is also concerned about possible abuse, especially after witnessing the recent incident of a woman beating a baby while the parents weren’t at home. “That made my husband and me scared of our baby’s safety and security – we can’t give our baby to anyone else in our absence.”

Ms Shiuly mentioned that a couple from Dhaka city’s Shahjahanpur area remained out of home for their jobs and they used to keep their baby boy in the custody of a housemaid. When they noticed unusual behaviour of the child, they installed a CCTV camera in their bedroom. One day they watched helplessly how cruelly their child was being beaten by the caretaker. The incident has panicked thousands of working parents.

This has also exposed the inadequacy of professional daycare centres. In some cases, the cost is not affordable to everyone. There’re only 63 government daycare centres run by the Department of Women Affairs and 35 of them are located in the capital. Even if a family can afford the daycare cost, they may not find one near home or office.

With the pandemic adding to concerns, hygiene issues have become more important than ever and the parents are in a fix as to whom they would trust about that.

Legally, it’s the right of the employees to have a children’s daycare at their workplace. According to section 94(1) of Bangladesh Labour Law 2006, if an organisation has more than 40 workers, there must be a suitable room for children under six years. The rooms, according to the law, must be easily accessible to mothers.

It was found in an International Finance Corporation (IFC) survey that 61 per cent of more than 300 companies didn’t have any plan to set up a daycare centre while 9.0 per cent of those are unaware of the concept of child daycare at the workplace.

There are other challenges to women’s career. It sometimes contrasts motherhood and only a few can find a solution without breaking apart. 28-year-old chemical engineer from Demra Moontaha Zarin (pseudonym), suffers a similar fate.

“My parents and in-laws are pressuring me to take a baby. But I was always determined to be successful in my career. As I live with my husband, the thought of where to leave my child when I have to go to work puts me in a tight corner,” she expressed her feelings.

Though motherhood is an essential part of life, not everyone has the luxury of quitting a job while expanding the family. The problem mostly lies with the culture of the workplaces, not with the choice.

 

Fahmina Ahmed is currently pursuing her BBA graduation at Dhaka University.

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