Punjab has shown better resolve in setting up daycare centres under the ministry of women development, offering a challenge to other provinces
Establishment of daycare centres in the public and private sectors, especially in urban areas of the country’s four provinces is a growing trend for the past few years.
The government is providing facilities for working women under their women development agenda. Provincial governments have made plans to establish daycare centres a part of their women development policies.
There is no accurate number of daycare centres in the provinces. Research shows that the private sector has a bigger presence in this area. A serious resolve is also being shown by the provincial governments to set up such facilities for working women.
Article 37 (e) of the Constitution says that "state shall make provisions for securing just and humane condition of work for every worker." Previous labour policies clearly mentioned providing daycare facilities for children of working mothers. Daycare facilities have also been ensured for working mothers under the Factories Act, 1934. However, few practical efforts have been observed in this connection.
Punjab tops the list of setting up daycare centres in an organised way under the Punjab Women Development department. At the moment, official figures show there are 112 daycare centres in 25 districts, including 15 in the private sector established with the help of the provincial government. The annual spending on this project is around 25 million rupees.
"Setting up of daycare centres in Punjab was started under the Punjab Women Empowerment Initiative Package 2012-2017 and a Punjab Day Care Fund Society (PDCFS) was formed to deal with this matter," informs Shehryar Mehdi, manager of the society.
He says 70 percent cost is shared by the government for setting up a daycare centre in the private sector, with the private sector bearing 30 percent of the cost besides providing a building for the centre. At the moment, this initiative has only been taken is in Punjab.
"The government is trying to make sure that no woman, who has the potential and desire to work, stops working because of lack of facilities, like accommodation and daycare centres," says Ashifa Riaz Fatyana, Provincial Minister for Women Development. The Punjab government, she says, aims to double the number of daycare centres this year.
According to a section officer at the Women Development Department Balochistan, who does not want to be named, early childcare is a very important and often overlooked component of child development. Presently, the department is running three daycare centres -- two in Quetta and one in Sibbi, while there is a plan to open one centre at least in each division/district.
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Peshawar has also seen more daycare centres in the last few years. "We are running a daycare centre in Peshawar for the past more than 10 years and now we see that this trend of setting up daycare centres is growing. There are more than a dozen daycare centres in Peshawar alone," informs Tanveer Ahmed, administrator of a private childcare centre in Peshawar.
The Sindh government has also declared establishment of daycare centres in Karachi and one each at divisional headquarters in the province.
"Punjab has a proper policy and law to set up daycare centres while other three provinces, till now, are setting up only model daycare centres," says Khawar Mumtaz, chairperson National Commission on Status of Women (NCSW). She maintains that setting up daycare centres is a serious requirement to improve conditions of working women at the government and private sector level.