SRHR Coalition and Zanzibar Reps Discuss Maternity Leave Extension
20 June 2023
The SRHR Coalition and the Zanzibar House of Representatives recently held a meeting aimed at improving Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) in the Isles.
The primary objective of the meeting, held on the 3rd and 4th of June 2023, was to discuss SRHR issues, particularly that of extending maternity leave from 84 days to 184 days, to help women get ample time to take care of their newborns.
The meeting, which was organized under the umbrella of the SRHR Coalition and led by Doris Mollel Foundation, brought together participants from Zanzibar House of Representatives, Zanzibar Law Reform Commission, Ministry of Health, UWAWAZA, Tamwa and ZAFELA.
While opening the event, the Deputy Speaker for the House of Representatives Hon. Mgeni Hassan Juma, appreciated the coalition for the initiatives and insisted that SRHR should be given the importance it deserves.
** “Giving enough time to the mother after giving birth helps the child to be healthy. We have good laws, but there are still gaps because the time given to the mother is not enough for her to raise the child and be able to invest in his/her health. Therefore, in order to have a healthy nation, we must invest in child care. The laborlaws need to be improved to help improve the health of mothers and their children,”**Italic .said Hon Mgeni.
Addressing the same gathering, the MDF Director, Doris Mollel, explained on behalf of the coalition how the process/ journey started and what has been done and achieved so far in Mainland Tanzania.
During the meeting, the Association of Women Members of the Zanzibar House of Representatives (UWAWAZA) Coordinator, also shared experiences from their work, including various guidelines and laws recognizing basic reproductive rights in Zanzibar Isles, gaps identified, and the advocacy initiative they have done so far to advocate for issues identified.
On the other hand, the SRHR coalition highlighted the laws governing maternity leave in Tanzania, Africa and globally. The presentation also looked at why maternity leave should be extended, the process so far, meetings held with various stakeholders who prepared the position paper,(andiko dhana), sessions to review the position paper and its submission to the Ministry of Community Development, Gender, Women and Special Groups.
The Coalition went on to stress the importance of extending maternity leave to improve maternal health, foster stronger bonds between mothers and newborns.
Sharing health advantages of extending maternity leave for women, Dr Robert Moshiro, from Muhimbili National Hospital said getting enough time for bonding strengthens mental health of the parents and improves the health of children. He also insisted on the importance of breastfeeding newborns for the first six months of their lives, which is currently a challenge to many women due to competing responsibilities.
During discussion, participants advised on the need to increase awareness on laws related to maternity at the workplace and the importance of setting up special rooms for breastfeeding in public places e.g. House of Representatives.
They also reminded that extending maternity leave has financial implications, hence the importance of engaging employers and other key stakeholders such as responsible ministries, employers’ associations to garner support for this initiative.
Recognizing the positive impact of extending maternity leave, members of the Zanzibar House of Representative expressed commitment to explore policy options and legal frameworks to make it a reality for all women in Zanzibar Isles. They agree that the Social Welfare Committee will be responsible for taking the matter for discussion in the House of Representatives.
The SRHR Coalition is a platform formed in 2022 bringing together more than 90 women and children rights organizations working in SRHR space. Currently, the Coalition is supporting a campaign advocating for an extension of maternity leave initially for mothers of preterm babies and babies with special needs from 84 to 180 days, but ultimately extending to all women as they exercise their right to safe and respectful motherhood. The Coalition is being supported by Women Fund Tanzania Trust