Some medium-sized enterprises in Latin America and the Caribbean are putting in place paternity packages that give their working fathers time to invest in their children. Marcelo Ber, Regional Child Rights and Business Focal Point for UNICEF Latin America, talks to new father, Rodrigo ,on why spending time with his baby daughter is a valued employee benefit – for the short-term and long-term.
Rodrigo’s eyes radiate when he speaks about his relationship with his three-month-old daughter: how he changes her diaper, rocks her to sleep and how he comforted her the other day when he took her to get vaccinations during working hours. He is excited about having his first daughter (his oldest son is 8) because he says that “girls get more attached to dads than boys”. I also have a three-month-old baby, Camila, who is starting to smile like no one else has never smiled at me. I enjoy talking with Rodrigo about the uniqueness of fathering a girl.
Rodrigo is Costa Rican, 26 years old, and has worked for three years as a machine operator in Etipres at a small labelling factory that supplies larger companies in the food and pharmaceutical sector. His neighbours are Costa Rican blue-collar workers and Nicaraguan migrants and they live near the industrial zone of Heredia, not far from San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica.
Beyond a decent salary and other benefits, Rodrigo is pleased that Etipres gave him several paid leave days for paternity, although in Costa Rica, as in most of the countries of Central America and the Caribbean, the legal standard of paternity leave is zero days.
Talking to him it becomes obvious that he is working very hard to maximize the window of opportunity of the first 1,000 days of his baby daughter, the only time when more than 1,000 brain cells have the potential to connect every second. Based on these connections, a child establishes the ability to learn, interact with others, speak, manage their emotions, gain short- and long-term health benefits, and secure many other advantages.
On a recent trip to Costa Rica, I visited the factory where Rodrigo works in order to promote the implementation of the Children’s Rights and Business Principles. Rodrigo’s story exemplifies how small and medium-sized enterprises are starting to re-consider how they view working fathers — in many cases due to the influence of other larger companies. Several large companies in Latin America and the Caribbean have already embraced the importance of fathers in the first 1,000 days of their children. For example, a few months ago the cosmetics company, Natura, extended the paternity leave to 40 days in Argentina.