In Focus | Empowering the “She” in the Family

2024-05-13 22:33:08

The past May 12th marked Mother’s Day, and we are about to celebrate the 31st International Family Day on May 14th.

Women are not only the core of the family but also an important force for social development. Respecting women and supporting their development is not only crucial to the happiness and harmony of each family, but also a key to promoting the progress of social civilization.

In reality, however, women, especially mothers, often face multiple issues and challenges within the family, including burdensome household chores and childcare responsibilities, as well as the difficulty of balancing their careers and family. Cities that aspire to leave no one behind should recognize the importance of women and the difficulties they encounter, supporting their development. Through policy-making, social education, service systems, and other means, cities can provide women with more employment opportunities and resources for balancing family and work, enabling them to thrive in cities and communities.

This edition of “In Focus” talks about women in the family, illustrating five outstanding initiatives that support and empower women.

Bogotá, Colombia: Bogota Care Blocks - How a city is reorganizing itself for women and achieving the SDGs
Winning Initiative 2023

It has long been recognized that women’s “time poverty” is a structural cause of gender inequality. The unpaid burden of care falls disproportionately on women, which translates into women lacking economic autonomy. Women who are primary caregivers also tend to abandon higher education. They are prone to suffer from chronic mental and physical illnesses and have higher chances of experiencing gender-based violence. 30% of Bogotá’s female population does unpaid caregiving full-time; 91% of this population is low-income; and 33% is deprived of free time for self-care.

In 2020, the city of Bogotá, Colombia’s capital, launched its Care System to recognize, reduce and redistribute care. This initiative operates mainly through Care Blocks with an “ease-of-access” modality that provides educational, leisure and income-generation services to caregivers, while simultaneously offering professional assistance to those being taken care of – children, people with disabilities, and the elderly.

The initiative also includes a cultural change strategy, a “Care School for Men”, so that men can learn to recognize care, and distribute care more equitably within the household. As a result of this initiative, which provides childcare and a laundry service, caregivers have gained a total of 4 hours daily to study, generate income, or rest.

Guangzhou, China: Integrated and smart neonatal health management system- empowering mothers, the family and the community
Deserving Initiative 2023

In China, 60% of term and 80% of preterm infants develop neonatal jaundice. In rare cases, it may indicate serious underlying diseases such as bilirubin encephalopathy and kernicterus (with 50%~75% mortality and very expensive treatment). Thus, rapid differentiation, early diagnosis and urgent management of risky jaundice are critical, not only to preserve life, and avoid long-term neurologic deficits for the newborn, but also to optimize the use of health care resources.

To address this, Guangzhou has established a home-based monitoring system for neonatal jaundice, which shares test results with the healthcare system through the internet. This provides a rapid and convenient AI screening tool to early identify and manage severe jaundice cases and obviates unnecessary trips to healthcare centers and hospitals.

Parents are usually less knowledgeable and experienced in predicting and detecting risky jaundice, resulting in the overuse of tertiary health resources or misdiagnosing critical kernicterus. Based on the integrated health service delivery framework, by harnessing information and AI technology, Guangzhou developed a smart neonatal health management system that empowers mothers and families to actively assess newborn health conditions and predict the risk of infantile jaundice at home. It also allows community healthcare givers and tertiary hospital pediatricians to easily access comprehensive health records and implement rapid hospital referrals.

Tharaka Nithi, Kenya: Enhancing Women’s Livelihoods Labor Force Participation Through the Crèche Program
Deserving Initiative 2023

Women play an important role in household chores and child care. In the Tarakanisi region, despite increasing employment among women, they continue to bear the majority of household responsibilities. The time women spend caring for children and performing other domestic chores takes away time and opportunities they could use for other income-generating activities. Childcare is therefore largely considered a barrier to women’s participation in productive economic activities outside the home.

In order to solve the problem of infant care, the Tarakanisi County Government opened a nursery in Chuka Market in 2021. The goals of the crèche program are to reduce the burden of childcare, ensure that their children are cared for while women are at work, promote the psychosocial well-being of nursing mothers, and promote children’s growth and development. With the assistance of Kenyatta University curriculum experts, the county government also passed a policy that allows the development of special education programs for children under 5 years old.

In July 2023, the policy was submitted to the county council. Over the next five years, crèches are planned to be inaugurated in all market centers in Tarakanisi County to achieve the desired transformation.

Mezitli, Türkiye: Mezitli Women Producers Market
Winning Initiative 2018

In Turkey, women are still one of the most vulnerable groups as they are often very much dependent on their families, and mostly on their male relatives or husbands. Therefore, the Women Producers Market is part of a general vision of Mezitli to be a women-friendly city and to encourage the local women to get more independent, thereby to increasing their self-confidence.

In doing so, Mezitli has set up the first market that women producers completely run. The initiative is supportive for local small-scale production and helps to strengthen local women as sellers, by providing them space and support to sell their local products, so as to encourage them to be economical actively in society.

This initiative’s outcome is already clearly visible, as it has increased the local employment rate and provided women with a platform to develop their economic existence, highly promoting gender equality in the city. In addition, the small-scale local economy has profited from this initiative. This means a more environmentally friendly economy and sustainable trade have been established, giving the whole city and its citizens a better quality of life.

Pimpri Chinchwad, India: Navi Disha: Community Toilet Model
Shortlisted Initiative 2023

The Indian city of Pimpri Chinchwad being a prominent industrial hub, hosts a significant number of migratory industrial labourers who have established residence in low-income settlement areas. City has 160 Community Toilets that provide clean and hygienic sanitation facilities in these areas. Under the Navi Disha initiative, women from the targeted communities have formed groups that have taken responsibility for operating and maintaining the community toilets ensuring superior sanitation standards.

Round of discussions were conducted with the communities for conceiving the initiative. Women within these settlements came forwards to take up the operation and maintenance of the community toilet in their area. Along with training in community toilet management, the municipality also makes a monthly payment to each women’s group to cover the cost of sanitation equipment and cleaning materials to generate revenue streams for the women’s groups.

The initiative is a good example of gender mainstreaming in the sanitation value chain along with effective public-community partnerships and agile administration. Over 400 women are now engaged within the initiative managing 40 toilets with total of 862 toilet seats. Over 30,000+ beneficiaries are getting access to clean and safe toilets every day.

The municipality aspires to introduce the women groups to alternative revenue streams, involving them in decision making for future initiatives such as women-led sustainable Solid Waste Management and establishing robust feedback and monitoring mechanisms.