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Research findings prompt legislation to improve the protection of young children in Senegal

Until January 2024, childcare centres in Senegal had no legal and regulatory framework setting out the conditions for their creation and operation, much to the despair of working women who had no guarantee that their children would be cared for properly, so they could conveniently and adequately carry out their professional activities.
A smiling lady holding an infant in her arms in a waiting room at a South Sudan health post.
Joy Obuya / APHRC, Antony Trivet Photography

In Africa, as in other parts of the world, socio-cultural norms assign to women most unpaid work and caring for relatives, preventing them from participating fully in the economy and reaping the benefits of their efforts.

With support from IDRC, researchers at Amadou Mahtar Mbow University found  that middle-class women in Senegal have a lower participation rate in the labour market than men: 35% versus 64%. Thus, a research program initiated in 2021 aimed to remove barriers to women’s participation in the labour market and enabled researchers from the university, as well as those from the Consortium pour la recherche économique et sociale, to gather key information on the demand for childcare services.

Among other findings, the researchers were able to conclude that, despite the high cost of nurseries, demand tended to increase, suggesting that the need for childcare services is such that users, especially from the middle class, are prepared to devote a significant proportion of their income to ensuring adequate care for their young children.

With these results, the research team initiated and maintained an ongoing dialogue with the institutions and decision-makers, advocating for a regulatory framework to enable quality childcare services. The researchers also enabled the institutions in charge of child protection in Senegal to gain a better understanding of the context, issues, supply and demand for childcare services, as well as the challenges facing this strategic sector.

Following this process, on January 19, 2024, the Senegalese government issued a decree setting out the conditions for the creation, organization and operation of these establishments.

The decree specifies the minimum number of staff, the skills and qualifications required, and the measures to be taken for the admission, care and safety of children, without discrimination of any kind, as well as inspections, both scheduled and random, to be carried out by the relevant authorities.

This new decree marks a milestone in the improvement of child protection in Senegal, but also an empowering factor for women, who can now pursue their socio-professional ambitions without being constantly concerned about the wellbeing and safety of their children.