Secure the bag with Maternity Protection (Part 2)

October 11, 2023

“Each generation inherits a world it never made, and, as it does so, it automatically becomes the trustee of that world for those who come after”. These are the words of Robert Kennedy.Namibia scored excellently in the 2021 edition of Women, Business and Law, an index which researched 190 countries. Out of a total of 100, we scored 86.3, much higher than the Sub Saharan region which settled at 71 out of 100.

Our challenges lie with maternity leave where we lag significantly behind in the maternity protection for both mothers and fathers.  The ILO standard recommendation is 14 weeks paid leave at least for mothers but ideally it is recommended for 18 weeks. (Recommendation No 191.)

Additionally, it is recommended that cash benefits should be no less than two thirds of a woman’s earnings prior to taking leave. Recommendation No 191 audaciously encourages paying women their full earnings.

In Namibia, we are still at 12 weeks for maternity leave and we have been here for a very long time.  My youngest is in his early twenties and its been 12 weeks for almost 3 decades now. 12 weeks with a maximum threshold of N$ 15 000 of earnings. Four weeks before birth, and eight weeks after birth. 

So we lie – at least some of us ! Expectant mothers conspiring with their physicians to alter the confinement date so we work until we are full term and take 12 weeks leave once our bundles of joy are born. Or we hoard our leave days, so we can take extended leave on full pay. At least, that’s what it was back in the day. Maybe the Ama2000’s have found a different innovation to cope but that’s what some women of my generation had to do.

What is beneficial about staying home longer with your baby ? Women can breastfeed exclusively for longer, getting closer to WHO’s recommendation for 6 months, even for women who are HIV positive. The benefits are enormous; healthier babies, better staff morale and decreased absenteeism by mothers who must take leave to look after sick babies.

And then there is the further benefit of laying secure foundations for life, namely the first 1000 days of life theory. In 2015, I attended a TEDx Talk by Deedee Yates and heard about this theory for the first time. Simply explained, the first 1000 days of a person’s life from conception to age 2, is consequential because this phase is where the body, brain, immune system develops.

This window with the right nutrition and care significantly boosts a child’s ability to grow, learn and rise out of poverty. Society benefits long term and we can better attain the SDG Goals notably SDG 1 and 2 which deal with ending poverty and a world free of hungry children by 2030.

Certainly that is a better world to bequeath to the next generation.

Social Security Commission, we look to you to secure the bag for the future to “reduce inequalities and move the nation significantly up the scale of human development” as stated in Vision 2030.

 * Hilda Basson Namundjebo  is a seasoned broadcast journalist, entrepreneur and television host. Founder of the national brand and organisation Team Namibia, Hilda believes her purpose is to impact the world with kindness, one engagement at a time.

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Last modified on Thursday, 12 October 2023 15:34

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