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Impact of mothers’ employment on infant feeding and care: a qualitative study of the experiences of mothers employed through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act
  1. Manisha Nair1,
  2. Proochista Ariana2,
  3. Premila Webster3
  1. 1National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (NPEU), Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK
  2. 2Nuffield Department of Population Health and Department of International Development, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  3. 3Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, Oxford, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Manisha Nair; manisha.nair{at}npeu.ox.ac.uk

Abstract

Objective To explore the experiences of mothers employed through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) using focus group discussions (FGDs) to understand the impact of mothers’ employment on infant feeding and care. The effects of mothers’ employment on nutritional status of children could be variable. It could lead to increased household income, but could also compromise child care and feeding.

Setting The study was undertaken in the Dungarpur district of Rajasthan, India.

Participants Mothers of infants <12 months of age. Ten FGDs, two in each of the five administrative blocks of the study district were conducted. The groups were composed of a minimum of 5 and maximum of 8 participants, giving a total of 62 mothers. Thematic analysis was conducted to assess patterns and generate emergent themes.

Results Four major themes were identified—‘mothers' employment compromises infant feeding and care’, ‘caregivers’ inability to substitute mothers’ care’, ‘compromises related to childcare and feeding outweigh benefits from MGNREGA’ and ‘employment as disempowering’. Mothers felt that the comprises to infant care and feeding due to long hours of work, lack of alternative adequate care arrangements, low wages and delayed payments outweighed the benefits from the scheme.

Conclusions This study provides an account of the trade-off between mothers’ employment and child care. It provides an understanding of the household power relationships, societal and cultural factors that modulate the effects of mothers’ employment. From the perspective of mothers, it helps to understand the benefits and problems related to providing employment to women with infants in the MGNREGA scheme and make a case to pursue policy changes to improve their working conditions.

  • Maternal employment
  • Infant feeding and care
  • Wage-for-employment programme
  • Focus group discussions
  • Qualitative study

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 3.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

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