Indra Nooyi’s ‘Asian Model’ Of Childcare Is Classist And Flawed

According to Indra Nooyi, the so-called Asian model of child care should be ‘imported’ to the west. So, what is this Asian model?

According to an article on NDTV’s site Ms Nooyi and her husband, did not want to leave their kids with a daycare worker and turned to their families in India for help – asking parents, in-laws, aunts and uncles and grandparents to stay with them in the US for 3 to 4 months to help supervise their children. This is can be summarised as her ‘Asian model’.

I have several female friends living in Delhi – who are often called home to look after the children of their brothers or sisters, and they mostly comply. I have also seen their ageing parents taking care of both the ‘nati(s)’ and ‘pota(s)’; finding happiness or should I say justifying it as happiness. It’s almost like an ideology that is culturally endorsed – “Oh look! How happy they feel taking care of their grandchildren or what else can make them happy or children keep them busy etc.”.

Ignoring all the care they need at that stage of their lives, they are forced back into the cycle of childcare. Devoid of all the modern services, they raised their children with great difficulty, and now in their old age, they are expected to raise their grandchildren as well – as the working parents can’t take care of their ‘planned’ children.

I would like to ask Ms Nooyi why is she opting to learn/try different things, post-retirement, like tennis or getting more sleep, as according to her ‘Asian Model’ she should be all geared up to babysit her relatives’ kids?

Having worked as the CEO of PepsiCo she has been privileged enough to think of enjoying her retirement, but an ordinary person cannot do so – as they are then roped in to practically raise their grandchildren. They didn’t have successful careers like Ms Nooyi, so they lived most of their life labouring at home and their not-so-high-end jobs to run their family. Most of them don’t have the luxury to enjoy their retirement and learn things they always wanted to.

Asian model is a flawed concept; a class construct to exploit the traditional, Indian ‘love and care’ concept.

This model doesn’t demand any commitment from the young men of the family, but it surely looks towards the young women to contribute to the outsourced yet within-the-family model of childcare. This hampers the young woman’s career and makes it impossible for her to be at par with other working professionals and the higher class women within their extended family – who do not wish to opt for professional childcare services, even when they don’t have the time to take care of their children.

If it’s not reciprocal, it’s exploitation. Would Ms Nooyi volunteer to babysit her relatives’ children? Will the richer reciprocate what their less rich uncles and aunts will do for them?

It’s a joke in the name of tradition. Family bonding is not restricted to childcare and babysitting favours; it also means caring for the elderly. At a time when our elders need to be taken care of and allowed leisure time to develop hobbies and relax and choose their happiness, they are made to choose the traditionally imposed ‘happiness’, and burdened with the responsibility of childcare. Why? Because the career oriented, capitalist class have no time to care for their children – but they also don’t want to leave kids with daycare workers. So, they find a replacement, and of course, such alternatives either come in the form of the couple’s parents or other close relatives who are from comparatively lower class, i.e. less rich.

People like Ms Nooyi and her husband won’t volunteer under their Asian model – as they are too rich to be spending time looking after someone else’s kids.

There are other aspects to consider too – for example, the climate, comfort, cultural needs, lifestyle needs, daily routine and habits of these elderly volunteers in a country far away from their own country, with substantial climatic, cultural and lifestyle differences – needs to be evaluated when talking about the impact of this model. As the stay will be 3 – 4 months – it will also impact the lives of these old people who would need time to adjust to the place they are migrating to.

Therefore, I disagree with this proposed model, and I think it’s a form of exploitation. It shouldn’t be promoted at the expense of care for ageing family members, and lack of reciprocation due to class and gender difference.

Ms Nooyi’s Asian model is just another way to gratify selfish needs in the name of traditionalism and joint family. If the reciprocation is missing, the gender aspects are misplaced, and childcare is given priority ignoring elderly care.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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