Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Countries urged to ratify maternal protection convention

THE Director of the Gender Equality and Diversity Branch of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Jane Hodges, has expressed her disappointment that Convention No. 183, the Maternity Protection Convention, has not been ratified worldwide.

Hodges explained in an interview with The Grenada Advocate that No. 183, adopted in 2000, is the latest version of Convention No.3, which was adopted by the ILO in 1919, and she is contending that more countries need to get on board.

The Grenada Advocate understands that while countries in the region have legislation which speaks to maternity leave, to date there is not a single English-speaking Caribbean country listed among the 28 nations which have ratified the latest version of the convention.

“Women have been having babies since Adam and Eve, so it is not something like HIV which [was] only identified as a pathogen in the 1980s; this is something that has been around forever.

“And the worth of women working and being healthy has been recognised in so many communities and so many societies… but somehow, the 20th and 21st centuries approaches, with women entering the labour force in massive numbers, doesn’t seem to be accompanied by an equal understanding that to still be healthy mothers and to give birth to the healthy future of that particular family, society and nation, you are going to need some measures there – protective measures,” she stated.

Hodges noted that while Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5, which addresses maternal health, was intended to get it right for mothers, it is one of the worst fulfilled MDGs, as there are still many women dying in childbirth or within a few days, due to complications related to the delivery.

Speaking more to Convention No. 183, she explained that among the benefits it provides for expecting mothers, is 14 weeks of maternity benefit, and it entitles women who are absent from work on maternity leave to a cash benefit, which is to be no less than two-thirds of their previous earnings or a comparable amount. This, she explained, would ensure that they can maintain themselves and their child. With that in mind, the ILO official noted that in some cases, there are companies and countries that offer even better benefits to mothers.

“It is all to do with the State understanding the value of human beings. One of the issues with 183 is that a lot of it could have been fear on the employers’ side – fear that it was their role to provide the paid time off, to provide the health care facilities, to provide breast feeding spaces. In fact, the Convention makes it absolutely clear that it is the role of the State to do this… and the fact is that not one country has gone bankrupt from providing paid maternity leave,” she explained. (JRT)

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