Zinia Jesmin Karim

Founder, Rainbow Valley Centre for Early Childhood Development

A woman’s care is paramount for a child’s development. However, Ms. Zinia Jesmin Karim has reached heights through education and dedication to work. She has become a specialist in her field after years of experience working in various places. Her work is her passion, and that adds to her output, propelling children forward towards self-growth.

 

Vision and mission

Founder of Rainbow Valley, centre for early childhood development, Zinia Jesmin Karim has initiated this project in 2013. Her vision and mission behind this work is twofold. She wanted to raise awareness about early childhood development in the urban society so that it will reduce the number of autistic children in the future. Zinia Jesmin mentioned that brain development process takes place rapidly from birth of a child till 3.5 to 4 years. The main development areas in the brain are - cognitive, emotional, social, language and physical development. Within 3.5 to 4 years of a child’s life, these key areas start to develop. For many reasons, this development can be delayed. For instance, in recent times, it can be observed that a large percentage of children suffer from speech delay. Increased addiction to gadgets and high ‘screen time’ leads to one-way communication as the child does not get proper intervention from the environment. Continuous negative exposure during the critical phase of brain development pushes the child towards Asperger syndrome or autism spectrum disorder- which are early forms of autism. Without proper treatment, the problem will become severe and they will soon be in the group 2 of autism. Zinia was motivated to share her knowledge with parents in the urban areas so that they can save their children.
Zinia Jesmin had a lot of experience in early childhood development. She worked abroad and in renowned companies in Bangladesh such as BRAC and a range of others NGOs. Her goal was to establish a day care of international standard which focuses on the mental wellbeing of children. In general, she observed a lack of awareness and knowledge about child development among parents. Educating the parents is also crucial and thus, she also holds parental workshops. She wants to work with the parents’ hand-in-hand so that children can reach their full potential. Additionally, she wants parents to come out of the mindset that mothers are solely responsible for a child’s wellbeing.

Source of inspiration

When Zinia first came to this country after years of living abroad, she realized that parents have a deep-rooted misconception. Parents think that when the children grow up and reach a certain age, only then they should make ‘investments’. She figured out that most people think that young children do not have much to learn and they will develop on their own.
Zinia Jesmin was in touch with elite people of the society but she realized that they lacked basic knowledge about raising a child. She wanted to do something to raise awareness otherwise, the children will not reach their full potential. Surprisingly, she figured out that parents in urban areas are the least aware about early childhood development. She wanted to make positive contributions to the society by taking her idea forward through better centres and collaborations. Within five years, she hoped to make significant changes in the field.

Rainbow Valley’s children

Zinia Jesmin pointed that children do not just rest and eat in the daycare. They follow an international curriculum which focuses on overall welfare. Zinia Jesmin is a trainer of a daycare at SME foundation- early childhood development. She holds workshops in many schools and corporate places.
Daycare is an integrated system. It is important that financial institutions come forward with resources. in order to make a meaningful impact zone-wise. Every zone of Dhaka such as Dhanmondi, Gulshan, Baridhara should have a day care centre. It will promote women entrepreneurship.
Zinia Jesmin Karim has collaborated with Robi Axiata. She is the in-charge of Robi daycare. Robi has highly valued her and her purpose. Apart from daycares, she organizes parental workshops in Robi as well. Organizational staffs can help to make a bigger impact. She wants to go to the next step and include more organizations so that she has a wider outreach.

Demand side of daycare in Bangladesh

It is a common trend among women to drop out of work to raise their child. Due to increased female labour force participation, daycare demand is on the rise. Zinia mentioned that she also provides counseling. She thinks that it is crucial that her idea is sustainable and is affordable to all economic classes. In recent times, Prime Minister is also relaxing rules on daycare. Daycare policies are being formulated with a lot of drafts completed. Although daycares are not given trade licenses, within this year, she is hopeful that a policy will be formulated.
Most daycares internationally keep children from 6 months to 6 years. However, Zinia Jesmin keeps children above that age. It is to be noted that development process is different for older children. If daycares can provide specialized facilities, it would be great. Individualized teaching is essential to cater to different age groups. Additionally, babysitting is also necessary to assist working women. Zinia wants to go forward with her vision and create a legacy. She considers herself as a women entrepreneur who highly values other women. In her daycare, she has hired all women to enhance empowerment. Her employees have flexible routines so that they can continue their studies and pursue higher goals.

Challenges throughout the journey

Firstly, absence of trade license is a problem. ‘Day care’ is not enlisted in Bangladesh. Rainbow Valley is enlisted as a consultancy firm with many segments. Thus, her organizational is legal and she is a regular tax payer. The second challenge is a financial concern. Initially she faced many hurdles and had to keep her personal possessions as mortgage. However, she was still determined to do something for her community. It was difficult for her to obtain loans from banks since daycares do not have trade license. The third challenge is regarding real estate. It is challenging to obtain individual houses for daycares because owners are reluctant to support the idea of daycares. The rent is also exceedingly high. She urges the rich echelons of the society to come forward to help in this cause. Because of lack of financial support, she has set up in a limited space. She created a small indoor garden because she did not have the space to do it outside. Zinia wishes to expand and give more space to children and urges the government to subsidize these centres. Another issue that she pointed out is, those who want to work in this sector should not commercialize it. They should have proper knowledge and passion because children are not products. Currently her centre can accommodate around 50 children.

Beyond the horizon

Zinia Jesmin plans to expand and looking for financing opportunity to open up another branch and renovate existing one. She mentioned that to do something passionately, one cannot compromise with quality. She hopes for a miracle that will give her a bigger space because the demand is huge.
‘Rainbow Valley’ is not just a daycare, but a holistic system of early childhood development which also works with parents. This centre will prepare children for school, while mothers can also work at ease. Mothers lose their productivity if they constantly think about their children because research says that women are sincerer towards their children. If a woman is given additional support, the positive effects will be reflected in the household, community and even in the country. Companies should also come forward with initiatives to support women as part of corporate social responsibility.