Right to Child Care

Over the last two years, MSN has been collaborating with Central American women’s and trade union organizations to ensure that employers and governments live up to their responsibilities to provide quality childcare services for working parents. Together we engage with international apparel brands, industry associations and governments to find childcare solutions that best meet the needs of maquila workers.

Most women workers have a double day – working for wages in the formal economy and working at home caring for their children, as well as other family members. The value to society and the economy of their unpaid labour in the home is generally unrecognized. It is often considered the norm, or ‘natural’, for women to take on the responsibility of care for family members. This understanding is being challenged by the labour and women’s rights organizations in Central America with which MSN collaborates.

Furthermore, the fact that childcare is a social responsibility, and not just an individual one, is recognized in international conventions of the United Nations (UN) and the International Labour Organization (ILO). The shared responsibility of governments and employers to provide childcare services for workers is spelled out in the national legislation of many countries, including those in Central America. However, such legislation is seldom enforced or complied with.

In El Salvador, MSN works with the Coalition for Decent Work for Women (CEDM), a coalition of trade union and women’s organizations that carried out a childcare needs assessment in 2017 with maquila workers and developed policy proposals for national childcare regulations. In Honduras, MSN has been working with the Honduran Independent Monitoring Team (EMIH) and the Honduran Maquila Union Network (RSM-H) on the challenges facing maquila workers to access quality, affordable childcare. Together, we produced a legal analysis (available in Spanish and English) of the responsibilities of employers and the state to provide childcare services for working parents.

On May 23, 2018, MSN co-sponsored, together with CEDM and the Central America Committee of the Americas Group, a highly successful and first of its kind regional forum in San Salvador: Childcare for Working Parents in Central America’s Maquila Sector: Options for Workers and the Business Case for Employers. The multi-stakeholder forum brought together over 90 participants, which included Salvadoran and Honduran employer representatives from 38 factories, the two country’s industry associations as well as leaders of 27 unions, women’s and labour rights organizations, and social compliance staff from 13 international brands and manufacturers.

At least partially as a result of CEDM’s work, on May 31, the Salvadoran legislative assembly passed legislation defining employers’ responsibilities to provide childcare services for their employees.

MSN continues to produce educational resource materials for use by our Central American partners and apparel brands sourcing from the region on lessons to be learned from childcare models and experiences in other countries. This work is supported in part by a grant from the Disney International Labor Standards Supply Chain Investment Program.

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