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Maternity and work balance Featured

If talking about balancing family life and work is still a challenge left to conquer in many countries of the so-called First World, in the developing countries this balance becomes a real utopia, especially in the most rural surroundings with the biggest poverty rates. And that is because the sexism that is installed in the different areas of daily life in those societies is the main obstacle that the rights and freedom of women have to overcome, together with the absence of a legal and institutional framework that encourages and promotes a balance between family responsibilities and the carrying out of any work activity with certain measures, like maternity and breastfeeding leave, reduction of working hours, unpaid leave for taking care of youngsters and family members, and working hours flexibility.

Here, in Lamu, the place of women is usually limited to the house, meaning taking care of the house, of the kids and the family, and also the development of some activities oriented to getting an income to the household (picking up and selling firewood or vegetables, fruits and other products in small stalls).

But, what happens when maternity comes? The answer is simple: women still carry out their work as usual, but now they do it with a very small baby hanging from their backs. And that is because they do not have any other chance, they do not have the possibility to stop working and care for the baby without an effect in their household economy. So both options have consequences that are very far from what we understand as balance between family life and work: on one hand, stopping work to care for the newborn means affecting his life and the lives of the other members of the family, because the reduction of income translates into, among other things, a diminishing on the quality of feeding, with all the risks this implies in terms of malnutrition and other sicknesses related with the poor quality of food and water. On the other hand, carrying out the work, in most cases outdoors, with a baby hanging from their backs is not even close to the optimal situation for the recovery of the mother and the upbringing and caring of the son.

Maternidad Esha

 Esha with little Mahmoud

 

From Afrikable, where women’s empowering is the main goal and the unifying thread of our interventions, the balance between family life and work is a necessity and a priority to take care of. So, women work in a flexible environment regarding the care of their smaller children, because they attend their workplaces with their babies, who are taken care of during the whole work day by a woman who is in charge of this task. In this way, women can work knowing that their kids are taken care of and having them very close in case they need to attend to them themselves, which includes breastfeeding.

This flexibility also translates into the possibility to have their salaries unaffected if they have to stay at home because they’re not fine to go to work, if they have to take care of their children or relatives or go with them to the doctor’s, or if they have to attend any school or community meeting: the same applies if they need to leave the workplace for this reasons.

In respect of maternity itself, mother’s recovery after labour and the adequate care for newborns in their first months are a priority, that is why maternity leave is a right granted to every woman working for Afrikable. In this way, they can choose to extend the maternity leave period for 3 or 4 months, receiving 12,000 or 9,000 shillings each month respectively during this period. With this, the rights of both the mother and the newborn are granted, and also it is ensured that the domestic economy is not affected by lack of income, with all the risks this may imply.

In the past weeks, two Afrikable workers, Esha and Maimouna, have become mothers and both already enjoy maternity leave. They and the other women that have already enjoyed it are delighted with it because they can take care of their children and enjoy them in the first months of their lives at the same time that they get a salary, which allows them to see that their domestic economy will not be affected merely because of the fact that they became mothers, thus avoiding any kind of harm or discrimination because of their gender.

Those measures mean a step ahead towards women’s empowering and the exercise of their rights, as balance of family life and work is a more than achievable goal for this women in an environment that is full of hindrances to do it.

Authors: Marta Heredia and Lidia Jimeno | Translator: Rocío Catalano

Read 1564 times Last modified on Sunday, 03 April 2016 00:11
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ABOUT AFRIKABLE

Afrikable is a Spanish charitable organisation, registered in the National Register of Associations under number 1/1/594088 and in the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation for Development (AECID)'s Register of Non-Governmental Organisations under number 2033.

 

In Kenya our association is called Afrika Able Organization and is registered with Kenya's NGO Coordination Board under number 10976.

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  • Lamu, Kenia.
    Madrid, Spain
  • +34 605 722 162