Corporates champion child rights in Botswana

Working with the private sector to improve the situation of children

UNICEF Botswana Communications
Private Sector Promotes ECD
UNICEF Botswana /2019
17 June 2020

UNICEF Botswana has convened the private sector through the CEO Council for Children’s Rights as a structured platform to place children’s welfare and issues on the agenda of industry leaders. The CEO Council is comprised of around 15 executives representing various industries including banking, postal, telecommunications, mining, retail, education, etc. 

According to the UNICEF Botswana Representative Julianna Lindsey, “CEOs are able to influence both their company policies and public opinion through their connections to Government, religious, and civil society leaders.  We aim to inform CEOs about children’s issues so that they can advocate on behalf of children.”

While the CEO Council is still relatively new, it has already stimulated action in creating family friendly workplaces. Several companies, including Debswana, First National Bank(FNB) and Wilderness Safaris, have expanded their maternity leave from the legally required three months to four months, with FNB extending the benefits to adoptive mothers and those who give birth through surrogacy. In addition, Barclays Bank offers 14 days paternity leave to fathers while mothers receive the legally mandated 90 days maternity leave at full pay, while additional days can be taken at half pay.   

In 2018, Barclays added early childhood development activities and messages to their sponsorship of Botswana’s premier cultural festival for minorities in the Ghanzi District. The ECD Session was attended by the Managing Director and other members of the senior management team, signaling high-level commitment to children’s welfare.  In addition, Barclays Human Resources team set up a dedicated day for male employees to talk about health and wellness, including presentations by UNICEF staff on how to combat sexual abuse of children.

Wilderness Safaris, the country’s largest tourism company, has recently improved its family policies. In 2019, Wilderness began offering to its staff who are based in the bush safari camps an additional 4 weeks of maternity leave. Bush-based staff are also entitled to free WIFI to maintain contact with families back at home.

At the last CEO Council meeting, Barclays and Wilderness shared their programmes with other Council members, sparking a lively debate and healthy competition amongst the companies.  One MD said, “Wow, I thought our paternity policy was ok, but now I realize we can do better.” 

In response to companies’ requests for details on how Botswana can provide state of the art family services, UNICEF will run a seminar in 2019 on best practices in terms of family leave, childcare, and breastfeeding time and space. There is already one corporate in Botswana with a childcare space, and UNICEF Botswana is optimistic that other companies will follow suit.