The month of March honours Women’s History Month, and March 8th is designated as International Women’s Day. A 100-year plus old organization, the YWCA has long been a champion for women and girls. Today it provides services and supports for women and families ranging from housing, employment, and wellness to childcare.
The mission statement of the YWCA team to “nurture the well-being of women, girls, and their families through inclusive supports” ultimately reflects the goals of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day.
Throughout women’s history, childcare has been an important determinant of women’s well-being, and linked closely to career and income.
Reliable childcare and family needs
The benefits of reliable childcare are seen in many forms. Monique Harmon-Atkinson, a parent who actively uses the daycare service at the YWCA and serves as Chair of the Parent Advisory committee, knows this well. She explains the various ways that the daycare helps her in her daily life: “I need to work, so having reliable childcare is invaluable to my family,”
“Many childcare providers don’t work on school holidays or over Christmas and, in addition, are closed for their own vacations. The YWCA Child Development Centre is only closed on statutory holidays and weekends/evenings. This allows me flexibility with my work schedule by not having to use up my limited vacation and family time to take time off when childcare isn’t open. I can take days off instead for vacation and spending time with my children and for when they are sick and they are unable to attend childcare.”
Having access to reliable childcare not only provides peace of mind for parents, but also allows them the ability and time to accomplish tasks and focus on responsibilities that benefit their entire family.
There is still work to be done
Though progress in access to childcare has improved over the years, there is still work to be done according to Harmon-Atkinson.
“It would be wonderful to have universal childcare to allow women and men to be able to choose to work and not have the cost of childcare as a barrier,” Harmon-Atkinson suggested. “In addition, to be able to access childcare 24/7 for women and men that work in roles that aren’t 9-5.”
In honour of Women’s History month International Women’s Day, Harmon-Atkinson shares her hopes for the future, as women continue to break the glass ceilings that were previously set for them by a patriarchal society.
“As a woman and a mother of a daughter International Women’s Day is important to me because it shines light on the still existing gender gap,” Harmon-Atkinson stated. “I would like for my daughter, when the time comes, to have the same opportunities as her male peers at the same pay.”
The growing need for childcare
According to Statistics Canada in 2011, the need for childcare has grown steadily over three decades, “with the rise in employment rates among women and the corresponding increase in dual-income earner families.” The demand for child care is reflected: “Beyond need, the demand for quality child care has also increased, due to the potential benefits on peer socialization, school readiness, and numeracy and language skills” (Statistics Canada, 2011).
In an attempt to adapt to this growing need, the provincial government offers subsidy for some parents who use licensed childcare services, based on income and number of dependents. Harmon-Atkinson acknowledged that the need for subsidized childcare is growing, but there are still several obstacles for women and families who need it.
“Although I am not a recipient of subsidized daycare, it [is] very impactful for families that need it,” Harmon-Atkinson said. “To be able to access reliable childcare at a subsidized rate allows many women to work to support their families. Adequate and affordable childcare is a huge barrier for many women to be able to work to support their families; subsidizing childcare spots would alleviate some of this stress.
The impact of childcare
Shumi Zaman, the Director of Early Learning at the YWCA, speaks on the importance of why we should celebrate and support women each and every day and what the impact of daycare is on women and their families.
“[It] allows women to be in the workforce, to gain experience, and enhance their skills, so they can provide for their family,” Zaman said. “It gives families independence and [the chance to] be positive role models for their children. It is empowering for women to be able to do that.”
The bigger picture
Zaman, who started as a volunteer at the Child Development Centre almost 25 years ago, still finds satisfaction in her position even after so many years because of the way in which she is continuously learning with the children in their care. Beyond that, she also sees value in bigger picture in that the services give women the opportunity to progress themselves in their education or simply the freedom to work to provide for their children and families.
“What is most fulfilling is that I get to learn with the children,” Zaman admitted. “[I get to] experience the wonder they experience, explore, and be adventurous. [Childcare] is essential [because] it allows women to get an education or a job while their children are receiving quality childcare.”
Currently, Zaman’s department provides daycare services to 62 children, which is incredibly impactful for the parents of these children who utilize these services. The Child Development Centre at the YWCA is a fully licensed childcare facility that is designed to create a safe, healthy, and positive environment to encourage learning and socialization for all children.
By Lyndall Mack
Photo: Dave Stobbe