I could have easily told this story to friends and family, raised some money, sponsored the baby care I had seen, and called it a day. But social entrepreneurship dares us to think bigger and change the conversation.
And so I teamed up with a friend of mine (now my husband), Afzal Habib, to figure out how we could provide a higher quality child care option at roughly the same price point.
Three years later, after much discussion and research, we set up Kidogo. The name comes from the Swahili proverb ‘Chanzo cha makubwa ni kidogo’ which means ‘All great things start small’.
We own and operate centres that provide all the building blocks young children need to thrive: a safe, stimulating environment; trained caregivers; a play-based curriculum; and a health and nutrition programme. Just $0.79 per child per day covers all of our operational costs.
We partner with day care operators, like the one I visited, showing them how to improve their quality and profitability. After the programme – which covers early childhood development and business skills – if they meet certain standards, they can become a Kidogo franchise and receive continued support.
One of the most valuable things we do is show that these women are not alone. Running a day care is a lonely profession, and they are constantly put down because the perception is they are not good enough to become real teachers. We show them they are worthy. And, over time, they begin to see it themselves.
I find it hard to accept the fact that where you are born determines the best you can be. We want to give every child the chance to have the same start in life that I had – one that is safe and loving, where they are healthy and learning.
We know the private sector is necessary for large systems-level change, which is why partnering with Kidogo is a win-win. We give children a better start in life and mothers some peace of mind. And we help businesses because access to childcare leads to less absenteeism and staff turnover, and improved productivity.
Kidogo and Unilever signed a partnership to test out the franchising model at the Lipton tea plantation in Kericho, Kenya. This is due to launch in March 2019 and, if it’s successful, we may scale it up to the 19,000 tea pickers and factory workers.
We have also partnered with Unilever brands Lifebuoy, Pepsodent and Omo to support our sanitation and hygiene efforts. Lifebuoy has run handwashing campaigns in primary schools before, but this was the first at the early childhood age range. So, we are excited to see how it grows.