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Working mothers welcome new standards for office creches

A strategy for quality childcare services in every government department was outlined yesterday - and welcomed by working mothers.

DUBAI // A strategy for quality childcare services in every government department was outlined yesterday - and welcomed by working mothers. The National Childcare Standards Initiative is the latest phase of the National Corporate Child Care Project announced last year by Dubai Women's Establishment (DWE) to push for childcare facilities in government offices. The aim is to attract and retain female staff.

The DWE said its research showed that 84 per cent of women believed productivity in the workplace would increase if creches were available, and that 92 per cent of the 1,186 women surveyed had said they would use such facilities. With the first government workplace creche due to open at Dubai Customs in the next few weeks, the new initiative provides guidelines for safety, nutrition and licensing standards. It also stipulates that the childcare centres must cater for the physical, educational and emotional development of children aged up to four years.

Maitha al Shamsi, managing director of the National Child Care Centre, said: "We found that in the region as a whole there were no set standards, so we realised that one of the things we needed to do was implement these new guidelines." The strategy draws from systems in America, Singapore and Britain, but Mrs al Shamsi emphasised the need to instil national and cultural identity in the children. When the DWE announced the National Corporate Child Care Project last July, it pointed out that while the Government had passed a law in 2006 to allow for creches in workplaces, nothing had been done to implement it.

Mrs al Shamsi, herself a working mother, said the DWE was also looking at other areas, such as flexible hours and maternity leave. The opportunity to have children cared for in the workplace was believed to increase both morale and productivity, she added. "Every working mother goes through the daily worry and the guilty conscience." Women working at government-run institutions welcomed the move yesterday. Dr Nojoud Amer, 34, an Emirati doctor at Khalifa Hospital, who used to leave her twin boys at a nursery near the hospital, said she had considered giving up work to look after them, while the lack of suitable care facilities had discouraged her from having more children.

Noora al Falahi, 26, an Emirati paramedic at Zayed Military Hospital, said she would continue to leave her daughter with her mother, but the move could be good for non-Emiratis with nowhere to leave their children. "We locals, we always have our families." mswan@thenational.ae * With additional reporting by Haneen Dajani

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