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Rwandan Parliament Seeks to Increase Maternity Coverage

Maternity coverageIn March, the Government of Rwanda approved a bill granting mothers full compensation while on a 12-week maternity leave. If implemented, the Maternity Leave Benefits Scheme would increase maternity coverage by 80 percent for the second half of their leave from the workplace.

Throughout the spring, the bill moved through parliament but was temporarily tabled in the House because of other pressing issues. Members of parliament are set to discuss this important legislation in the next few weeks, though, according to an article in Equal Times.

Because of the current system, many Rwandan women on maternity leave return to the workplace after just six weeks because they cannot afford to lose 80 percent of their compensation for that time.

Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Claver Gatete said that the current plan is not conducive to supporting a mother and her child both socially and financially.

The new legislation will have employers compensating mothers for the first six weeks and a social security fund covering compensation for the second six weeks. As an insurance scheme rather than a government fund, the additional compensation will come from a new income tax.

Public and private sector employees will make a 0.6 percent contribution of their salary to the insurance scheme in order to cover the costs of this fund. Contributions are set to be taken through the existing Rwanda Social Security Board, but the scheme funds are set to be distinct from other social security funds.

There is widespread support throughout Rwanda for this legislation, many calling this bill “long overdue.” Dominique Bicamumpaka, president of the Congrés du Travail et de la Fraternité — Rwanda (CONTRAF) was quoted in Equal Times, explaining her and other campaigners’ support for this legislation.

“[CONTRAF was] involved in the whole process and we encourage all the citizens to embrace this new initiative wholeheartedly because when a woman gives birth, it is not only for the family but also for the society,” she said.

If adopted, this bill will improve living conditions for mothers and their newborns, while also giving mothers more value and credibility in Rwandan society.

Many Rwandans consider this legislation a major step toward improving working conditions for women throughout the country. However, advocates such as Andre Mutsindashyaka, secretary general of the Rwanda Extractive Industry Workers Union, hope that this is just the first step of many other adjustments in making the workplace more mother-friendly.

“We are trying to make it easier for mothers, especially that nursing, by finding ways how they can work but also look after their babies,” he was quoted in Equal Times.

“So far, there is a plan that we hope to launch in five years, which will see each office have a daycare centre where mothers can breastfeed their babies. So far, some places like [the Rwandan Tea Authority] are providing [daycare facilities] and we hope that eventually, every office can do the same.”

Arin Kerstein
Photo: Flickr