This story excerpt was translated from Spanish. To read the original story in full, visit Salud con Lupa.
In Peru, more than 8,000 women take care of nearly 60,000 children under three years of age in the day care centers of the Cuna Más National Program. They do not receive a salary or social benefits. Since the State considers their work voluntary, they are paid in "tips" at a fraction of the minimum wage. The development of many children living in poverty is in their hands.
The program allows mothers to seek remunerated work outside the home, knowing that their children are taken care of during work hours. Here, young children receive developmental stimulation, emotional support, and food. The women in charge of their care form a large part of their lives. Yet these women are still dependent on other odd jobs or their spouses' incomes to make ends meet.
Programs like Cuna Más are estimated to improve employment opportunities for women by 14%, according to a study by the Consortium for Economic and Social Research (CIES). But the women working full time as early childhood caretakers are paid about half the minimum wage or less. Those with the most experience receive only 1,025 Peruvian soles ($265) a month. The state also neglects to provide them with social security benefits or pensions. Though there is talk of a new national child care initiative, questions on the labor status of those who provide this service to their communities have been ignored.
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This story is part of Salud con lupa's research, with support from the Pulitzer Center and the Early Childhood grant from the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma.