Through a network of centres, mothers with small children in the Czech Republic work together to maintain their professional skills and develop self-confidence.
Focus: Family, Health, Women
Geographic Area of Impact: Czech Republic
Model: Leveraged Non-Profit
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Czech Republic, 2005
Women with small children in the Czech Republic are often discriminated against in the labour market. Maternity leave allowances are very low and often put mothers in an uncertain financial situation. A strong network of centres for mothers prevents women from stagnating professionally and socially when they are on maternity leave. As a member of the Czech government’s Council for Women and Men’s Equal Opportunities, Rut Kolínská lobbies for the benefit of mothers. Her goal is not only to establish equal opportunities for men and women in the workplace, but also to make on-site childcare possible at work.
Innovation and Activities
The Network of Mother Centers (Sít Materských Center) is a non-profit organization in the Czech Republic that seeks to help women with small children maintain their professional skills and develop self-confidence.
The network consists of 335 centres throughout the country. They are spaces where mothers and children can meet other mothers and children to learn how to use their free time effectively.
The centres also offer a meeting ground and support services to more than 67,000 families. Numerous activities include crafts, sports, and educational and requalification programmes.
The centres are open to all, including minorities, refugees and the disabled; the open atmosphere teaches respect and tolerance, and addresses xenophobia or racism. The benefits for women include escaping isolation, keeping or upgrading professional standards, exchanging information and experience, developing new friendships, building self-confidence and getting involved in public issues. It also helps to prevent criminality and boosts the maternity rate.
Establishing a Mothers Center requires close cooperation with local authorities, fundraising and understanding of laws. This process is a great teaching tool for women on maternity leave. The experience has lead many women to become active in local politics.
Rut Kolínská is the daughter of a protestant pastor. The mother of five children, she spent 18 years on maternity leave. She has a university degree in Ethnography. Her interest in family issues originated in 1988 when she co-founded the environmental group, Prague Mothers. She founded the Network of Mother Centers as a professional civic association in 2001. However, the first centre was opened as early as 1992, shortly after Kolínská got the inspiration from the model of Mother Centers in Germany. Kolínská was named Woman of Europe 2003, which consequently helped with fundraising for the network. She serves as a role model for thousands of Czech women.
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