'Maternity Protection Every Woman's Right'

The Herald (Harare)
July 19, 2006
Harare, Zimbabwe 

ZIMBABWE - Women working in the informal sector have the right to maternity protection just like their counterparts in the formal sector, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has said.

Also in this group were domestic workers and contract workers who currently do not enjoy any maternity benefits.

Zimbabwean law provides for the right to maternity protection to certain categories of women, which includes 14 weeks leave in the private sector, and 12 weeks leave for those in the public sector, 100 percent job security during maternity leave, and an hour breastfeeding break per day for six months.

Speaking at a ZCTU workshop on Maternity Protection in Zimbabwe at African Labour Administration Centre (ARLAC), ZCTU legal advisor Mrs Tsitsi Mariwo-Mbanje said those measures were not adequate as they continued to be discriminatory against certain categories of women, like domestic and contract workers.

"Women with less than one year in employment are also discriminated against for they are not entitled to unpaid maternity leave.

"The only option they have is to resign and their job may not be guaranteed after childbirth," she said.

Mrs Mbanje said all these discriminatory provisions were in contravention of Convention 183 which provides that "all employed women have a right to maternity protection including those in a typical forms of employment".

They were also against the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which Zimbabwe ratified.

According to the convention, Mrs Mbanje told participants, women who find it difficult to get hospital fees, pre-natal and post-natal costs in light of the ever-increasing medical costs have a right to adequate maternity benefits from social assistance funds.

"Those funds are not available, however, and that is why we have incidents of mothers who are detained in hospitals with their babies for failure to pay hospital fees."

She said there was also need to increase the feeding time allowed for mothers -- from one to two hours -- adding this would give the women time to travel to and from the workplace.

Mrs Mbanje noted that the current maternity protection measures did not provide for pregnancy and maternity related leave. The ZCTU called on Government to consider tax-free maternity cash benefits to cushion working women as pre-natal, childbirth and post-natal costs were eroding their incomes.

The workshop sought to sensitise membership on the international and regional instruments on maternity protection, to discuss national labour law provisions on maternity protection and to assess the adequacy and inadequacy of national law vis-a-vis international and regional instruments.

It also sought to develop a lobbying and advocacy strategy for the ratification of Convention 183 by Zimbabwe.


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