The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has committed to supporting the private sector players in creating family-friendly policies at their workplaces, as a way of improving the lives of children in the country.
UNICEF Country Representative, Julianna Lindsey said that there are already good initiatives happening in the telecommunication and banking sector but the agency is challenging other sectors to come on board to improve the welfare of staff and their children.
For instance, current through Rwanda’s bankers’ association (RBA) financial institutions have mandated paternal and maternal leave for their staff and set up
“We are challenging them to increase their maternity leave to four months and increase the paternity leave to at least two weeks,” Lindsey said at the 2nd CEO Forum for Children held September 16, 2022.
Currently, the obligatory maternal leave is three months and fathers a given a couple of days.
Lindsey said that for a year now, there are a number of companies that have stepped up to this and many setting up breastfeeding rooms, Early childhood development (ECD) centres, and training nannies but UNICEF is open to partnering with the private sector to scale up.
To help companies achieve shared values in child development, UNICEF has worked with companies like SATO- a social business that has positively impacted the lives of more than 35 million people in 44 countries (including Rwanda) by providing Africa-specific user-friendly latrine pans (SaTo pan) toilets and other hygiene services.
Through SATO, UNICEF and the National Child Development Agency (NCDA) have, for instance, availed 20,000 toilets in 17 districts and currently installing similar toilets and upgrading open pit toilets in schools through the School Toilets Enhancement Program (STEP).
UNICEF said that partnering with a business enterprise like SATO has led to an impactful social corporate business model and called on Rwanda’s private sector to come up with ideas which can be supported but also with a commercial perspective.
NCDA Director General, Nadine Umutoni said that this is a learning experience for the government, especially looking at what the banking and telecommunication sectors are doing thus there is hope that many will follow through without legal obligation.
“Investing in families and children is one of the smartest investments a country can make in partnership with the private sector to break the cycle of poverty, address inequality and boost productivity later in life of its citizens,” Umutoni said.
Kampeta Pitchette Sayizonga, the Chief Executive Officer at Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD) said that this is possible if it is an industry driven practice and done in healthy competition.
“The way forward is learning from each other without waiting for regulator especially using positive competition to learn and later it becomes a standard in the industry,” Sayizonga said.
PSF CEO, Stephen Ruzibiza challenged companies to ensure their corporate social responsibility offers shared value in order to create social impact whilst still meeting the company’s business objectives.
Several CEOs made commitments to consider or increase paternal and maternal leaves and set up child friendly spaces for staff’s children.
For instance, Maryse Mbonyumutwa Gallagher, CEO Pink Mango C&D – a global garment plant that hires over 4,800 staff (80% women) said they introduced a free nursery and preschool, maternal healthcare but planning on introducing a primary school and a secondary healthcare facility.
Gasabo Investment Group CEO, Fabrice Shema said by end of October Kimironko market which has over 1600 vendors will have a breastfeeding room and redesign the new market plan to not only have a child playground but an ECD.