SA needs full participation of women and men in child care

Wednesday, February 18, 2009
By: 
Gabi Khumalo

Parliament - Minister in the Presidency, Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, has asked Members of Parliament to look at the country's national policies to ensure full participation and partnership of women and men in productive and reproductive life.

Addressing the National Assembly on the upcoming United Nations Commission on the Status of Women on Wednesday, Minister Tshabalala-Msimang said during the period of preparation for the country's participation in this forum, there would be a review of the issue of maternity, paternity and family responsibility leave.

"While we have a very forward-looking Labour Relations Act which puts workers rights at the top of the agenda, the issue of maternity leave and paternity leave must be reviewed in line with the commitments we have made globally.

"Furthermore, not all women in our country are able to enjoy fully paid maternity leave - many women have to utilise their Unemployment Insurance Fund in this regard," she said.

The UN CSW will be held at the UN Headquarters in New York from 2 to 13 March.

This year, the commission will focus on three themes, with the priority theme on equal sharing of responsibilities between men and women, including care-giving in the context of HIV and AIDS.

South Africa will also focus on prevention, support and care, including nutrition, treatment where indicated and the importance of research.

The minister told the national assembly that the paternity leave men were entitled to in terms of current legislation was insufficient time for a father to bond with his new born baby or be trained on the care and nurturing of the baby.

"Our society needs to grapple with the issue of increasing the role men play in respect to the delivery of their babies, child-rearing and in sharing responsibilities for household chores," she said.

She also emphasised a need for appropriate measures to balance the daily burden of domestic responsibilities, the greatest share of which falls on women and to truly recognise the unpaid work performed by women.

"Look at the issue of flexi-time and flexi-hours of work, day-care facilities at work places, maternal leave, breast-feeding policies, and health insurance, in order to accelerate our progress towards empowerment of women and achievement of gender equality."

The minister acknowledged President Kgalema Motlanthe for the statement he made during his State of the Nation Address earlier this month, on the issue of 50/50 representation in decision-making structures.

The President said this year government would facilitate the processes aimed at strengthening the machineries dealing with matters of gender equality such as 50/50 representation in decision-making structures.

He said in the coming few months, pending on the national and provincial elections, government will endeavour to complete that particular mandate.

"As part of the many detailed projects contained in the government's Programme of Action, we will pay particular attention to facilitating the processes aimed at strengthening the machineries dealing with matters of gender equality such as 50/50 representation in decision-making structures," the President said at the time.