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Closure of nurseries to force working women drop out of labour force — activists

By Rana Husseini - Oct 21,2020 - Last updated at Oct 21,2020

AMMAN — Civil and women’s rights groups and daycare owners on Wednesday protested a recent government announcement to close nurseries until the end of the year saying this step will force working women out of the labour market.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Bisher Al Khasawneh announced a series of new measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 during a press conference at the Prime Ministry, and one of the decisions was to close nurseries and schools until the end of the first semester.

Khasawneh said during the press conference that the new procedures will undergo regular assessment and new defence orders will be announced in the near future covering new health measures. 

On Wednesday morning tens of daycare owners staged a sit-in in front of the Ministry of Social Development calling on the government to exclude nurseries from the decision.

SADAQA organisation, which has focused its work on childcare services and facilities in Jordan for several years, criticised the government for issuing “such random decisions to close kindergartens and nurseries”.

“For us, this is a declaration by our government that they do not want women to be part of the labour market or the public space,” SADAQA posted on its Facebook page.

Solidarity Is Global Institute (SIGI) also issued a statement calling on the government to reconsider its decision since closing nurseries “will expose more children to hazardous health situations”.

“Some families might resort to sending their children to unmonitored nurseries at houses of people so that mothers would not lose their jobs, which might increase the health hazards for these children,” the SIGI statement said.

There are many working mothers whose work entails providing direct services such as physicians and pharmacists.

“How will these mothers cope with their jobs if they are obliged to stay home with their children because there are no nurseries open,” the SIGI statement said.

Jordanian National Commission for Women Secretary General Salma Nims said in a tweet: “We are back to square one”.

This decision will reflect negatively on working women, Nims said adding, “how can a mother tend to her four-year-old child and at the same time watch over her children who are studying online?”

“I am really starting to believe that our successive governments don’t see women! All the talk about women’s economic participation is for media consumption,” Nims said in her tweet.

The Jordan Labour Watch also issued a statement saying that the government’s decision will contribute to women’s decision to withdraw from the labour market.

The JLW suggested instead on the government to develop firm preventive health protocols for nurseries and kindergartens to maintain their work, while at the same time ensure the reduction of a COVID-19 outbreak in such establishments.  

Meanwhile, social media users also condemned the decision and called on the government to revoke its decision.

“No and a thousand no to such decision. These are unstudied decisions because we did not hear of any nursery or kindergarten that reported a [COVID-19] case,” wrote Manal Haddad.

Hamzeh Malkawi added: “The decision to close kindergartens is disastrous for women working in the private sector. How will women who are working as physicians, pharmacists, nurses, radiologist, medical record officers work if they have children at nurseries?”

However, a woman named Nadia Al Sheikh tweeted: “The closure of nurseries is to reduce the spread of the epidemic so that we are not forced to live another lockdown”.

Mothers working in the medical sector should be allowed to place their children in nurseries that are supervised by their duty station because they are on the line of defence against the epidemic, Sheikh suggested, adding, for the private sector, it would be best to allow mothers to work from home with the same salary”.

The civil and women’s rights organisations announced their intention to continue with the protest until the government adheres to their demands.  The groups launched online campaigns calling on the government to retract its decision regarding nurseries.


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