The workplace must be made more flexible to support the challenges faced by working mothers! This only echoes the subtle message missed by most observers as they laid blame on the mother of three missing children who, thanks to heavens have been found and their abductors arrested in the course of this month. Owing to the stereotype society has created for women who should manage the home front and take care of the children, and the outright careless approach to ensuring the safety of her children, this article will be a very hard one to write. Instead this article aims to raise questions about options that Mrs Orekoya could have had which would have prevented the tragedy.
While we do not aim to justify the actions of the parents who left their children in the care of a total stranger, it is worthy of note that the challenges of life and the need to be productive in this century has thus created an atmosphere were both parents may need to combine efforts and pool resources.
Still not justifying her actions, let us attempt to paint a picture of the ‘worst case scenario’.
- What if Mrs Orekoya like several other mothers across the world actually is the breadwinner of her home?
- What if she was a high ranking executive in her organization on whose actions depended the livelihoods of several other employees?
It cannot be denied that women are already an integral part of the workforce and support their families in the most profound ways.
A look at the Nigerian working environment however shows that the working conditions do not necessarily support the working mother. Ironically a lot of these organisations are signatories to the +United Nations Global Compact principles, one of which states that companies should uphold the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation and claim to have policies which support the achievement of the MDG targets, one of which speaks directly to promoting gender equality and empowerment of women. The objective of both principles, when applied to the Orekoya’s case implies that organisations should encourage and support efforts to build a climate of tolerance and equal access to opportunities for occupational development for women.
The case of women empowerment is as that of a farmer with a hoe. If provided a tractor, his productivity will increase in multiples. World over, women have made giant strides taking great stand and changing the world with their career pursuit and there is a need to further encourage them to pursue their dreams.
What then can organisations do to support women who want a work and family balanced life?
A much more conducive workplace and balanced life has shown over time to help productivity, some of the things which some organisations are already doing and other can adopt to promote a balanced family/work life for women includes:
Creche at work:
Companies can support women to continue their work by having a creche at in the workplace or supporting women to pay for a creche nearby. If Mrs Orekoya had access to one of such facilities, she may not have left the children at home on the fateful day. Currently a number of organisations have fully functional crèche services in major buildings for staff children including Total Nigeria and Access Bank plc.
Co-organising holiday activities for children:
The Orekoya kids were kidnapped during a holiday period when their mother had to work. Suppose other mothers, with support from their employer organised a week long holiday program for the children to creatively engage them while their mother goes to work, this incident may not have occurred
Flexible working hours during children holidays:
Many women will be happy to accept this offer as it allows for a family centred work environment. More so, it allows for mothers to spend more time and dedicate more attention to their children
How about a countrywide database that allows users verify the data history of domestic staff before? A service like this exists and companies need to subscribe. VerifyMeNigeria offers such a service.
It is important that organisations create a conducive environment for staff regardless of their gender. Collective action or a change in a perception to support women can help prevent a reoccurrence of this.