UAE Ministry of Social Affair’s nursery is a trailblazer

Ministry of Social Affairs leads the way in government by establishing its workplace nursery.

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DUBAI // For some lucky women, juggling work and motherhood became a lot easier in 2008 when the Ministry of Social Affairs became the first government department to open a nursery.

“When we first set up the nursery everyone was sceptical. Even the mothers were afraid of the idea but they soon came to enjoy the benefits,” said Nora Al Medawi, the principal at the nursery.

Views changed rapidly and soon the nursery staff were struggling to meet the demand for places.

“The waiting list grew longer especially after we started to accept children from Ministry of Labour employees,” said Mrs Al Medawi.

Today the nursery has about 70 children and serves the Emirati female workers of both ministries.

So popular has it become it now operates at two sites – at ministry premises in Al Qusais and at the Dubai Rehabilitation and Handicap Centre.

“We made an arrangement in which the majority of the children of up to two and half years old are kept in the main building while the older children are transferred by bus to the other branch.”

The main nursery has 25 children while second branch has 46, with children as young as three months attending. There are 23 staff, including nurses, working across both branches.

The nursery has had many tangible results, according to Mrs Al Medawi, who uses the nursery for her own son.

“The resignation rate of new mothers has reduced significantly and productivity has increased due to fewer absences and peace of mind. Many more female workers are able to breastfeed.”

Mrs Al Medawi said office nurseries were a better option for working mothers than privately run facilities. Not only are they cheaper, but the timings match the working hours of the mother.

“The majority of private nurseries are expensive and profit driven. They also close during summer,” she said.

The ministry nursery charges about Dh500 per month. “Many mothers said that fees in private nurseries are far from their capabilities and the office nurseries have given them a good option,” said Ayat Mirza, the principal of the ministry nursery’s second branch.

“Some women say were it not for the office nurseries they would not want to fall pregnant.”