24 December 2012

Rwanda: Mukantabana Speaks Out On Maternity Leave

THE criticism directed at parliament over the issue of maternity leave in the new Labour Code is largely because factors that motivated the law are not duly appreciated, the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Rose Mukantabana, has said.

In an exclusive interview with The New Times at her office last week, the Speaker acknowledged that "many people do not understand," that parliament has worked hard to promote gender equality.

According to the Labour Code, a woman in the private sector who has given birth is entitled to six weeks of fully paid leave.

If she wants to extend her leave to twelve weeks, she gets at least 20 per cent of her salary during the following six weeks, although the employer can grant more.

Initially, one was entitled to full salary for the entire 12 weeks.

"We are promoting equal opportunities for men and women in terms of accessing employment, and their access to high positions in decision making. But we realised that there are some obstacles," she said.

"Women are giving life but while we give life we are deprived of some of our rights because some private institutions are saying they cannot employ ladies because they say that for example, one can give birth twice in successive years meaning they would not work for six months...many end up employing someone else."

She added, "It is a challenge for women to access jobs, particularly to access high level positions in the private sector. So, we said, 'how could we balance this principle of promotion of equal opportunities for men and women and the role of women as life-givers?'"

According to the Speaker, it was decided that instead of putting the total burden of maternity on employers, it was best to promote the idea of creating maternity insurance so that the burden is shared by the whole community, and the Rwandan woman is assured of higher chances in the labour market.

But she explained that 'an important and extensive' insurance bill that will compliment the Labour Code has delayed in Parliament.

"This delay has somehow discouraged people but the idea itself was good. The insurance fund, once in place, will help women to get access to jobs, especially in the private sector."

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