Zahra is a textile worker at a big garment manufacturing company. Two years ago, when her husband died in car accident, she became the family’s only breadwinner. She has two young children. Every day, she works at the factory from 7 in the morning until 7 in the evening. She has no one to care for her children while she is at work, so they are left with neighbors who unfortunately sometimes fail to feed or treat them well. Zahra’s children are malnourished and repeatedly fall sick. She requested her employer to allow her to finish work earlier to be able to spend more time with her children, but her request was rejected.
Unfair and difficult working conditions of parents such as Zahra have negative impacts on the physical and mental health of children, impacts which last for the rest of their lives. Businesses can take measures to improve their working environments to reduce such negative impacts on the children of employees.
UNICEF was invited to the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Conference organized by the - German-Iranian Chamber of Industry and Commerce on Wednesday 28 February 2018 in Tehran. In separate remarks addressed to the conference, UNICEF Representative in Iran, Dr Will Parks and the Corporate Alliances Manager of UNICEF Geneva Office, Ms Ida Hyllested, provided detailed overviews of the importance of business commitments to children as well as the tools and guidelines which could help businesses ensure children’s wellbeing is observed.
UNICEF Representative in Iran, Dr Parks, in his remarks in the CSR conference said: “Business has a responsibility and the power to improve the lives of children and protect them from harm through the way they treat their employees, operate their facilities, develop and market their products, provide their services, and exert their influence on economic and social development.” He said UNICEF has been working alongside the private sector across the globe to integrate a child lens into core business practices and to increase corporate understanding of the challenges children face.
UNICEF Corporate Alliances Manager, Ida Hyllested, who had travelled from Geneva to speak at the conference, presented some of the tools that UNICEF has produced to support businesses to develop policies and processes that consider children. “Business interacts with children on a daily basis, although often this is neither directly nor purposefully. Children are workers in their factories and fields, family members of their employees, and community members in the neighbourhoods where they operate,” said Ms Hyllested. She added: “Often though, businesses find it difficult to identify their impacts on children beyond preventing child labour. Failing to take impacts on children seriously where and when they occur jeopardises the ability for companies to secure the support of the next generation.”
She described 10 principles which UNICEF has developed together with business leaders for understanding and addressing the private sector’s impact on the wellbeing of children. She also provided some models of UNICEF’s work with major corporations around the world to adopt policies and take measures to reduce negative impacts on children.
The garment manufacturer where Zahra works has recently taken some steps to improve its working policies. The CEO of the factory has agreed to build and resource a child care centre adjacent to the factory which provides free facilities to the children of employees. Zahra is happy that with the new care facility in place, she no longer has to worry as much about what her children eat and how they are treated and the children will be healthier and happier when they are close to their mother.