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The Qatari community seems to be sharply divided on the issue of whether there should be nurseries at the workplace where mothers can breastfeed their babies at regular intervals.
There are those who support the idea saying workplace crèches would increase productivity of working women with breastfeeding babies.
But an equally large number of people are opposed to the proposal arguing that workplace nurseries would distract working women and actually hamper their productivity.
Interestingly, not many male civic elected representatives are in favour of such crèches, although a majority of them recently debated the issue and referred it to a key panel (services committee) of the Central Municipal Council (CMC) for its opinion.
The committee says it will draw up its recommendations and forward these to the authorities concerned, but its head hinted he personally thought it was not so easy to set up crèches at workplace.
“The issue needs to be studied in-depth and we need experts to conduct such studies,” said Jassem Abdullah Al Malki.
“However, we don’t want to be a stumbling block and prevent a debate on the matter. The services committee has, in fact, no objections to discussing the issue and forwarding recommendations to the authorities concerned,” Al Malki said.
It would, though, be a good idea if all schools in the country had such crèches and working women with babies could leave infants in their care instead, he suggested.
“To set up crèches at workplace (to begin with, in the government sector, going by the original proposal) is easier said than done,” said Al Malki without mincing words.
“You need a huge budget for such nurseries, qualified women to take care of very small children, administrative staff and then medical experts,” he said, reiterating: “It isn’t really easy.”
According to the proposal, crèches are to be first set up in government departments and its beneficiaries would be both, Qatari and expatriate mothers employed in the sector.
“And after that the CMC must press for the other sectors (the mixed and the private ones) to follow suit,” said Al Malki.
He said the idea of nurseries at workplace is quite new to Arab societies as it took roots in Europe where the private sector wanted to encourage more women to take up jobs.
“A baby care facility at workplace has both its merits and demerits: A child can remain close to its mother while she is at work, but the mother can be distracted from work.”
There are a lot of private nurseries in the country.
“And we do realise that their charges are quite high, but all we are saying is that the issue must be studied in-depth,” said Al Malki. “We can’t simply say a yes or no (without proper studies).”
“You need highly qualified women staff to man such crèches which would have many other specific requirements,” he suggested.
Agreeing with Al Malki, his colleague in the CMC, Ahmed Al Sheeb, who represents Umm Salal in the House, said: “The crèches would, though, cost the state exchequer hugely, the idea must be studied at length and by experts.”
And not only the CMC but the Advisory Council should also take up the issue for a threadbare debate and come up with recommendations, Al Sheeb told this newspaper yesterday.
“And, what happens to schools…they are the largest employers of women…so each nursery goes about setting up a crèche?,” wondered Al Sheeb.
“Just imagine that each government agency and each school goes about having a crèche…How much would it cost in terms of manpower and logistics,” argued Al Sheeb. “I don’t support this idea,” he said pointblank.
This is a modern era. Qatari homes at least have maids and CCTVs, so baby care can be monitored.
While Sheikha Al Jefairi, the only woman member of the CMC who tabled the proposal before the CMC supporting the idea of crèches at workplace saying this was the demand of an increasing number of working women, was not available for comment, prominent woman psychologist, Dr Moza Al Malki, said she backed the idea ‘to the hilt’ of especially girls’ schools having crèches.
“Women teachers have spare time so they can man such crèches and working mothers can breastfeed their babies and spend time with them,” she told this newspaper.
And as for government agencies, they can also set up such facilities and employ qualified baby care staff, including nurses, to take care of children, she suggested.
“As it is, the government gives two hours each working day to a female employee with a breastfeeding baby. But instead of she going home and coming back to work, she can attend to her child at workplace if it has a crèche,” she said.The Peninsula