Nelson Mandela Foundation

On the 20th of May 2021, the Nelson Mandela Foundation co-sponsored a global webinar with Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) on Child-Care Services and Women’s Work. Other co-sponsors included the International Domestic Workers Federation; Public Services International; and UN Women. The webinar was hosted by the platform, and aimed to bring together different perspectives including those of child care workers, policymakers and researchers to discuss what public investments in the childcare sector should include as part of national economic recovery plans. The webinar was moderated by Rachel Moussié, the Deputy Director of the Social Protection Programme at WIEGO, and the panellists included: 

  • Isabella Sekawana, Chief Director: Early Childhood Development, Legislation and families; and Acting Deputy Director General for Welfare Services, Department of Social Development, South Africa.
  • Elizabeth Lule, Executive Director of the Early Childhood Development Action Network (ECDAN)
  • Selma Núñez Parada, Childcare Educator at the Roberto del Río Hospital Kindergarten, National Leader and responsible for Childcare issues of the National Confederation of Health Service Professionals of Chile (Fenpruss) 
  • Fish IP, Regional Coordinator - Asia-Pacific, International Domestic Workers Federation 
  • Silke Staab, Research Specialist, UN Women 

The panellists offered a new perspective into early-childhood development ECD provisioning, as it brought together stakeholders who approach the child care sector in diverse ways. They offered riveting accounts of the challenges faced in the child care sector, from different parts of the world, which enabled the audience to see the sector’s many complexities and commonalities. Ms Isabella Sekawana shared her learnings as a government official, and outlined the ways in which the SA government had progressed in the provisioning of ECD services and funding of ECD services. Ms Sekawana recognised shortcomings and illustrated the multi-sectoral approach that is needed in order to realise effective ECD delivery. 

Elizabeth Lule shared a presentation on the ways in which ECD can be further advocated for and how service delivery can be rolled out in order to reach all communities. As she rightly asserted, “The benefits of child care provisioning are cross-cutting, everybody wins when there is universal, quality and affordable child care”. 

Ms Parada gave rare insight into the working conditions of child care workers in providing ECD services in health care, and how their work is characterised as low paying with indecent working conditions. She spoke to how policies and laws protecting the workforce is only demonstrated on paper, whereas the implementation always falls short. In order to abandon these ineffective practices, Ms. Parada proposed a number of meaningful changes. This includes the state recognising the social value of care work - both paid and unpaid - as well as restoring the duty and responsibility of government to provide public services for care.

Fish IP spoke to the migrant domestic workers crises around the indecent working conditions of the sector, “They are hired for their cheap labour with no benefits or protections, they are required to be away from their families, leaving their own children to be left alone for a number of years with no opportunity to visit their homes or send an adequate amount of money either”. In high income countries such as Singapore and Hong Kong, the state minimally spends on childcare while families depend on grandparents and migrant domestic workers to provide child care services. 

The Foundation’s contribution to the webinar was in the form of a video, which profiled ECD practitioners in our network. Some of the areas they spoke to included the barriers that prevent them from paying their ECD workforce decent wages, the impact of the pandemic and the challenges they face as women in the sector. The video is entitled ‘Early Childhood Development Webinar on Child Care and Women's Work’ and can be watched here -