Karangwa on her initiative to help low-income mothers


Lulu Karangwa during the interview. / Sam Ngendahimana

Lulu Karangwa is the founder of Childcare at Workplace Organisation (CWO). The organisation focuses on supporting low-income mothers, mostly market vendors, to lessen the burden that comes with juggling work and raising children. She had a chat with Women Today’s Donah Mbabazi about her initiative.

Tell us about Child Care at Workplace Organisation?

It is a non-profit organisation aimed at childcare for working mothers to ensure the well-being of children in communities, especially in local markets. Many low income mothers are obliged to carry their infants to the workplace which exposes them to an unsafe environment. Carrying these little ones also affects the productivity of mothers who constantly have to worry about the wellbeing of their children. The organisation supports early childhood development (ECD), that is, lifting children out of poverty and, increasing their access to early education and health.

How did you come up with this idea?

I am a mother; I see how these children are suffering. As their mothers are busy with work they barely have a place to sleep and almost nothing to eat. The environment itself is not favourable at all in terms of well-being. All this pushed me to do something and when I shared the idea with my partners, they bought it. We want to see these children flourish right from a young age because they are the future generation.

Why focus on low-income mothers?

These are the most vulnerable, when you look at what they earn, they can’t provide proper support for their dependents yet they are trying to raise and give their children a bright future. By 3am, they are on the road with their babies on the back, struggling for survival. I found it worthy to lend a helping hand.

What does the organisation offer its beneficiaries?

We have different centres, it is at these centres where the market vendors will bring their babies to be taken care of and pick them up in the evening after work. They will only have to contribute a sum of Rwf300 per day just to make the initiative sustainable.

Lessons on nutrition, sanitation, family planning and breastfeeding are also offered to mothers, whereas kids have access to different activities such as reading, writing, playing and more. There is also a breastfeeding station where mothers breastfeed and the centres are a stone throw away from the market places. The Kimisagara centre is actually within the market, so this is convenient for parents and it gives them time to bond with their kids.

We will also introduce an outreach programme that we do at the village level where we train mothers on the proper upbringing of children. We are planning to have centres at least in each village. So far we are working with Gasabo and Nyarugenge districts.

How will this initiative impact the lives of working mothers?

Their productivity will definitely increase as they will be working with a peace of mind, talk about holistic development. I am sure we will all benefit from this as a society. Most of these women can’t afford housemaids and they live in areas that are sometimes too dangerous to leave children behind. This initiative will help them leave their children in safe hands, they will have time to bond and issues like child abuse will reduce.

What are some of the challenges you face?

Support was a big issue as we have been contributing from our personal savings to sponsor everything. However, we have partnership with Society for Family Health (SFH) on technical support which made a huge contribution in capacity development. The other challenge was creating awareness, explaining to women how this was going to be of benefit to them and, the issue of finding space for the centres was an obstacle in some way.

Other prospects you have for the organisation?

We have centres in Kimironko and Kimisagara but plan to expand to other areas too. To sustain this programme we have to work with the government. We also want mothers to run the centres in the long run; this is why they are being trained.

We are also looking at the next phase of this project as we are planning to open up centres at mining sites, refugee camps and border posts for cross border traders.

How can other stakeholders help this cause?

First of all, if possible, the government can put emphasis on the market based early childhood development centres (ECD) for the low income earners who are struggling to make a living. Also, other stakeholders can try and put up more similar centres all over the country.