by Alagi Yorro Jallow
Around the world, women now have more influence over the decisions that affect their lives. In even the most conservative societies. In the Gambia the issue of women’s decision -making power, their ability to influence political and public policy decisions, distribution of public authority, rights and resources have not impacted the lives of working Gambian women. The problem with appointing two women Vice Presidents, their approaches is that they don’t address the often-fragile process of addressing the needs and aspirations of women’s labor rights but, to be seen by others another way of empowering women in decision making in government. Becoming a leader and empowering women involves much more than been put in a leadership role and adapting not to the requirement of that position. Appointment of two female vice presidents serving the government of president Adama Barrow does not have an adverse impact on the labor rights of Gambian women.
The maternity leave and medical benefits for Gambian women under President Barrow has taken a major backward step by reducing the maternal leave policy from six months to three months as contained in the Revised General Orders Code of Conduct and Public Service Rules and Regulations, clause 04110.
According to the General Order 04111 (amended). “Any confirmed female employee of the Civil Service who is pregnant shall consult a Medical Officer for a report on her expected date of confinement and on production of a satisfactory medical certificate, shall be entitled to a maternity leave with full salary for a period of three months calculated to cover six weeks before and six weeks after confinement” According to the General Orders of the Gambia government.
Increasing the maternity leave from twelve (12) to twenty-four (24) weeks in 2010 under the previous government of Yahya Jammeh was a major, progressive and bold move that was acclaimed globally as a major step in protecting, respecting and maintaining child and women’s rights particularly the reproductive health and employment rights of women. This move also put The Gambia in the same league as the countries that provide the most paid maternity leave by law according to the ILO.
Meanwhile, according to the Health Policy 2011-2015 “the ante-natal, delivery and post-partum care are included in the minimum health care package in the head of the Village Health Committee VHC. Regarding health financing, it is stated in this document that Gambia government budgetary allocation to the health sector is still below the 15% target Abuja Declaration”. Nothing is provided in the Labor Code identified in any statutory provision regarding the healthcare for women during pregnancy, childbirth and the post-natal period. According to International Labor Organization. (Gambia: Maternity Protection 2011).
In unrelated, the USA and Papua New Guinea are the only countries that do NOT guarantee paid leave for new mothers. Activists argues that the time has come for the U.S. to recognize the economic, physical, and psychological costs of this approach for working mothers and their babies, and to secure its own economic future by providing paid leave to all working parents.