Kigali, 22 October 2014 (ILO)* – Kanyange’s (not her real name) baby is crying intermittently as they wait to meet a doctor at a health care centre in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.
ILO Convention No. 183 provides 14 weeks of paid maternity leave. It prevents the exposure of a pregnant woman or nursing mother to work that can be harmful to her health and that of her baby. The Convention also provides for protection from discrimination based on maternity and termination of employment of a woman during pregnancy or on maternity leave.
In its report “Maternity and Paternity at Work: Law and practice across the world” published in May 2014, the ILO’s Gender, Equality and Diversity Branch said around 830 million women do not have adequate maternity protection. Almost 80 per cent of these workers are in Africa and Asia. As of now Mali, Morocco, Benin and Burkina Faso are the only African countries that have ratified ILO Convention No. 183 (C183).
Rwanda has so far ratified 28 international labour Conventions and according to Paul Ruzindana, the Legal Advisor at the Ministry of Public Services and Labor, the process of ratifying Conventions is based on the country’s ability to implement them.
“We have to consider whether we have infrastructures and means that will allow us to implement a Convention. It would not be right to ratify a Convention and not implement it,” says Ruzindana. Debates are now underway in Rwanda to look into ways of establishing a maternity fund that for trade unions and women would be a helpful alternative.
Maternity protection will be more of an investment rather than a cost…
The ILO is assisting the Rwandan government in its efforts to establish a maternity fund and therefore ensure that adequate maternity leave cash benefits are provided through social insurance for at least the current full 12 or 14 weeks, in line with C183. This would replace the current employer liability system.
“This is essential to protect women against discrimination and allow them to fully enjoy their maternity leave, which is key for maternal and child health and families’ income security,” says Laura Addati, Maternity Protection and Work-family Specialist from the ILO’s Gender, Equality and Diversity Branch.
Guebray Berhane, the Senior Communication and Public Information Officer at the ILO Regional Office for Africa, says Convention No. 183 is demanding and rewarding as well. “What the Convention is saying is that there is a need for a shared understanding for a negotiation and a discussion.”
“This is why we believe maternity protection will be more of an investment rather than a cost not only for the employers, not only for the workers, not only for the government itself but for the whole country,” says the Addis Ababa based ILO Senior Officer.
*This article was awarded the “Media for Labour Rights in Rwanda” Prize by the International Training Centre of the ILO (ITC-ILO), which is co-funded by the European Union. It was published by ILO News. Go to Original.
2014 Human Wrongs Watch