Many Ethiopian women working in the formal sector face challenges balancing care responsibilities for a newborn and work life. Anecdotal evidence suggests that in the absence of a close family member to support them or the inability to afford a babysitter, many face a choice between quitting their job to accommodate breastfeeding and childcare; or to return to their career, which often necessitates discontinuing breastfeeding earlier than is recommended.

The policy environment in Ethiopia appears to support working mothers, but implementation gaps still exist. Article 35 of the Constitution of Ethiopia and Labor proclamation No. 1156/2019 entitle female workers to 120 fully paid maternity leave days (30 days antenatal and 90 days postnatal) and 10 days for paternity leave. Even with maternity leave the 2018 USAID Transform: Primary Health Care Activity gender analysis, conducted in four regions of Ethiopia, confirmed that female health care workers struggle to continue with their career after they return because of a lack of childcare facilities. This issue persists despite the Federal Civil Servants Proclamation 1064/2017, which reinforced guidance promoting on-premises daycare.

Daycare centers are an important step to addressing the needs of working parents, especially in the first six months. In line with recommendations from global and national health authorities, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics, USAID supports immediate and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, followed by the introduction of age-appropriate complementary foods along with continued breastfeeding for up to two years of age and beyond.

In an effort to address this gap, the Ministry of Health Women, Children, and Youth Affairs Directorate launched the first ever daycare center on Ministry premises. As the Transform: Primary Health Care gender partner, EnCompass staff adapted technical standards for the daycare centers and helped procure critical items for setup and day-to-day functions. Building on this success, the Activity went on to administer subgrants to support additional daycare centers at four Regional Health Bureaus. The Activity will continue to monitor and document the work at the daycare centers to capture results and lessons to inform future work in the Ethiopian context.

Photo: Daycare Center at SNNP Regional Health Bureau by Yidnekachew Legesse