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

Sex trafficking exists in the United States. Sex traffickers target women and children with histories of addiction, abuse and even issues with debt and use manipulation to keep these victims trapped in the sex trafficking industry. The leaders in sex trafficking use violence and threats against the victims loved ones as means to force these victims to work against their own will. Accordingly, 83% of sex traffic victims are United States citizens. This issue is larger than most people realize and exists in the form of strip clubs, fake massage businesses, hostess clubs and even online escort services.

The internet is the number one center for sex trafficking in the United States. For example, pimps use websites like and even disguised as massage services to escort victims for services. Thus, these women are forced into sex trafficking at a young age mostly by older men. Most of the services that are offered on Craigslist are in the form of recruiting. Women post pictures of themselves and answer customer’s calls referencing the ads placed on Craigslist. These women are not willingly posting these pictures, but are in constant fear of their own lives. In addition, these pimps use not only force but the false promise of a better life and threats to harm the victims’ loved ones. Victims are coerced into trafficking by pimps posing as model scouts, or nannies and house maids being recruited and then captured by these sex traffickers.

Because trafficking is unique when based in the internet it has become extremely profitable and it is easier to reach a larger audience. Anyone can post ads on these sites and these ads can be seen by thousands of people in addition to being unnoticed by the police. The average age range these victims enter the sex trafficking industry is 11-15 and due to the vague description of age with words like “young,” these operations slip by unnoticed by authorities.

In addition, many women in places like Nigeria, Thailand, and other places suffering from global poverty are involuntarily forced into sex trafficking. The geological approach to sex trafficking shows high numbers of victims in areas stricken with poverty, as well as remote areas where women are more likely taken from to an area of global capitalization and tourism. These high traffic areas are promoted through the use of the internet and smartphones. Because of the accessibility to these websites, where a brothel can be located in under a minute generates high revenue for the owner.

Accordingly, President Barack Obama released a statement saying “We’re turning the tables on the traffickers. Just as they are now using technology and the Internet to exploit their victims, we’re going to harness technology to stop them.”

To illustrate the alarming statistics of this issue the US Department of Health and Human Services show that 90% of runaways end up in the commercial sex trade industry and in Tennessee 94 children are trafficked every month. Human Trafficking has become a larger issue than most realize and will be addressed accordingly to the advancement of technology.

– Rachel Cannon

Photo: CNN
End Slavery Tennessee, Polar is Project

According to a new study by GE Healthcare, incidences of fatal breast cancer have risen in developing countries.

Bengt Jönsson, Professor in Health Economics at the Stockholm School of Economics, and co-author of the report has said, “Breast cancer is on the rise across developing nations, mainly due to the increase in life expectancy and lifestyle changes such as women having fewer children, as well as hormonal intervention such as post-menopausal hormonal therapy. In these regions mortality rates are compounded by the later stage at which the disease is diagnosed, as well as limited access to treatment, presenting a ‘ticking time bomb’ which health systems and policymakers in these countries need to work hard to defuse.”

While significant headway is being made in the prevention of communicable diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS, many developing countries do not have the resources to provide treatment for cancer.

Ignorance and the stigma of breast cancer is also a contributing factor. “There is little information for the people who need to be helped,” said Dr. Fred Okuku, of the Uganda Cancer Institute in Kampala, “Only a few know how to read and write. Many don’t have TV or radio. There is no word for cancer in most Ugandan languages. A woman finds a lump in her breast, and cancer doesn’t cross her mind. It’s not in her vocabulary.”

In the United States, about 20 percent of breast cancer patients die from it, compared with 40 to 60 percent in developing countries. While prevention and self screening measures are well known in the United States, misinformation in the developing world has led to an increased risk. A recent survey in Mexico City highlights this, indicating that many women feel uncomfortable or worried about having a mammogram.

Claire Goodliffe, Global Oncology Director for GE Healthcare, has said, “It is of great concern that women in newly industrialized countries are reluctant to get checked out until it is too late. This report finds a direct link between survival rates in countries and the stage at which breast cancer is diagnosed. It provides further evidence of the need for early detection and treatment, which we welcome given current controversies about the relative harms, benefits, and cost effectiveness of breast cancer screening.”

David Smith

Sources: New York Times

In the Yefag kebale (ward), a small village in northern Ethiopia, women are being trained in gender-responsive planning and budgeting that ensures both men and women beneficiaries are able to contribute to discussions regarding the use and distribution of resources. The training, provided by the NGO Poverty Action Network of Ethiopia (PANE) and supported by UN Women, is enabling women to analyze government plans and budgets for their kebale, and make sure that the needs of men and women are equally prioritized and served.

PANE unites Ethiopian residents and international charities in the goal of reducing poverty and creating sustainable development through the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). PANE increases public awareness of the MDGs and encourages the formation of partnerships with community, regional, national and international organizations in order to meet the goals.

In Ethiopia, PANE has worked to educate women about financial budgeting and planning, and encourages them to identify priority areas in their communities. For the women in the Yefag kebale, one issue that has been highlighted is water. In Ethiopia, only 36 percent of the population has access to a source of drinking water within a 30-minute walk. For the huge number women and girls who are responsible for collecting water, the long walk to collect water, often through isolated and muddy paths, leaves them vulnerable to attacks and sexual violence.

In the Yefag kebale, 11 water spots serve the population of about 3,000. There is a committee for managing each spot, including deciding on its location, design, access and maintenance fees. Melkam Embiale, representative of the women of the village, explains that when all the committee members were men, they did not understand the requirements for the water spots because they were not responsible for carrying the water. “Before, women’s perspectives were not taken into account in the planning and budgeting process,” said Melkam. But recently, women have secured three of out seven seats on every water committee, enabling them to be able to crucially analyze the needs of the community. “The selected women push for our agenda, which is to construct the water spots closer to the village,” says Melkam.

When women have the ability to make decisions about aspects of community life that directly affect them, it positively impacts that whole community. By acknowledging the importance of women’s role in the economy, the Yefag kebale is taking steps to overturn patriarchal structures. Working from the success of this small village, PANE plans to expand its gender-responsive budgeting initiative to more communities in the region. The program also looks to move up through local structures to the national government, in order to open dialogues with decision-makers at the senior level. “Now we participate at the kebale level, but we want to participate at the district level as well,” says Melkam, suggesting that she and the other women in her village are not planning to stop any time soon.

Chloe Isacke

Sources: UN Women, PANE

Photo: Water Encyclopedia