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Story Publication logo August 23, 2022

Caregivers Who Only Receive Tips: That’s the Job of Thousands of Cuna Más Mothers (Spanish)



Thousands of women are considered volunteers instead of receiving pay for taking care of children in...

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Image by Max Cabello. Peru, 2022.

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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Maciel Vasquez feels that children get attached to her easily. It's the same for her. For each one, she remembers a detail about the child. Image by Max Cabello. Peru, 2022.

In her youth, Roxana Cuya wanted to study early childhood education. When her sister suggested that she become a caregiver at Cuna Más, she knew it was time to live her calling. Image by Max Cabello. Peru, 2022.

Caterin Gutiérrez began working as a caregiver when her son was a Cuna Más kid. Although the pay she receives is low, she values how much she has learned in the position. Image by Max Cabello. Peru, 2022.

In four years as a caregiver, Roxana Simon has learned to recognize in the children's cries the problems they bring from home. She aspires to become a child psychologist. Image by Max Cabello. Peru, 2022.

Before the pandemic, each caregiver at Joyitas del Porvenir cared for eight children. Now, because of the capacity, they care for only six. Image by Max Cabello. Peru, 2022.

Each day, the caregiving mothers have a plan of activities aimed at promoting the development of the children in the Cuna Más program. Image by Max Cabello. Peru, 2022.

After lunch, the children have the option of resting. Caregiver mothers cradle them until they fall asleep. Image by Max Cabello. Peru, 2022.

Upon arrival at Cuna Más centers, children leave their shoes at the entrance of the room and wear slippers or Crocs. Image by Max Cabello. Peru, 2022.

The children have spaces -and caregivers- designated according to age: babies (6 to 11 months), crawlers (11 to 18 months), walkers (19 to 24 months) and explorers (25 to 36 months). Image by Max Cabello. Peru, 2022.

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.


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