ILO says Ghana Needs National Maternity Protection Policy

Mr Akwasi Sarpong, National Project Officer of the Maternity Protection Project under the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has called for the development and implementation of a National Maternity Policy to protect women workers when they deliver.

He said the policy should be extended to maternity protection benefits for women in the informal sector as well as increase awareness on maternity protection throughout the country.

Speaking to the GNA after a day’s media training workshop on maternity protection organized by ILO in collaboration with the Ghana Journalists Association, Mr Sarpong said the current law Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) did not have clear provisions, thus, creating gaps that needed to be filled.

He cited gaps such as the absence of enabling environment to enforce the exclusion of women both in the formal and informal sectors, enforcement of the law, and no specific benefits packages with the exception of the National Health Insurance Scheme.

“The existing social programme should include protection benefits that will include cash or medical child care”, he added.

The workshop was on the theme “Promoting Women Workers Right through Advocacy and Awareness Creation”.

It forms part of ILO’s strategic objective to support Ghana’s efforts aimed at accelerating progress towards the attainments of MDG 5, a project entitled “Building Social Protection Floors for pregnant Women and Nursing Mothers in Ghana”.

The project, which is at its inception stage, is based on the premise that women should not suffer unequal treatment at the workplace due to their reproductive functions

Mr Sarpong also called for a social insurance system that would cater for both women in the formal and informal sectors.

He advocated for the promotion of parental leave that would include paternity leave as it is being done in some developed countries to enable men cater for their babies whilst their mothers are at work.

“It should also include child care facilities and institute breastfeeding arrangements at the workplace,” he said.

Mr Anthony Awotwe, a Principal Labour Officer at the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations said maternity protection for working women was crucial to their health and well-being as well as that of their children.
He said many employers often violated the law of granting stipulated maternity leave for their female employees and even expelled some women once they were pregnant.

He reiterated the need for the government to get all stakeholders to develop and adopt a national maternity protection policy geared towards the welfare of mothers and by extension paternity leave for fathers in case of death, sickness or hospitalization of the mother.

Ms Aku Xornam Adzraku, the National Progamme Coordinator of the Maternity Protection Project, said maternity protection for career women had been a core concern of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), since its foundation in 1919, when governments, employers and trade unions of member states, adopted the first Convention on Maternity Protection.

She explained that maternity protection at work aims at preserving the health of the mother and her newborn and to provide a measure of economic security for the concerned women and their families.

“Working parents’ care responsibilities for their children, extend well beyond birth and the end of maternity and paternity leave. This is why the package provides an overview of set policies and measures that governments, employers, trade unions and others can take to enable men and women to provide continued care for their children, while fostering decent and productive work, for the benefit of all,” Ms Adzraku said

She pledged ILO’s support for media efforts in increasing advocacy and awareness which was critical to achievement of increased awareness and access to maternal health and maternity protection among target groups. GNA

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