NANASO proposes paternity leave

By Paulina Ndalikokule

THE director of the Namibia Network of AIDS Service Organisations (NANASO), Sandi Tjaronda, has advocated for the introduction of paternity leave as a way of involving fathers in the early-stage upbringing of their children.

Tjaronda made the remarks recently in Windhoek at a workshop they organised to discuss possible incentives and strategies for media reporting and coverage of nutrition issues.

Paternity leave can be defined as a period of absence from work granted to a father after or shortly before the birth of his child. “We can even introduce paternity leave because that is where we need to also have fathers involved in the upbringing of a child,” Tjaronda said.

Tjaronda also advocates for extended maternity leave to give working mothers more time to practice exclusive breastfeeding, which protects children from long-term nutritional and developmental deficits. Currently, maternity leave rounds up to three months (four weeks before birth and eight weeks after a woman has given birth).

“That is why we are advocating for a change in policies and laws to create an environment where mothers can actually stay longer [with their newborn babies] or even open up opportunities in the workplace so that mothers can have breastfeeding corners at work, a baby friendly corner or even fathers’ corners,” the director stressed.

Also speaking at the event was an expert nutritionist, who said nutrition is affecting a lot of people especially in the light of food scarcity due to the drought. He encouraged people to help each other eat healthily to reduce malnutrition and its affiliated problems.

“Nutrition is a topic that really needs to matter to everyone, regardless of who you are, because the food we eat helps us develop and should bring us together.”

The Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) in 2004 made a submission proposing public input on the question of paternity leave to the National Council Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs.

Their research showed that people had mixed feelings about paternity leave, including over the number of benefits and the potential to empower fathers to be more active in their children’s lives, as well as economic costs.

Some people argued that for every day that a father is not working, the Namibian economy loses a day of his productive potential. Further, others felt that annual leave provides a sufficient number of days for fathers to spend with their children.

Yet others thought that annual leave is intended to provide time for employees to rest, and should not be compromised by forcing fathers to use these days for the demanding work of attending to a newborn child.

In Africa, countries such as Algeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Egypt provide three days of paternity leave per annum. South Africa does not have a law requiring paternity leave, but some collective bargaining agreements have included paternity leave benefits.

In Namibia, a small survey of businesses and organisations was conducted by the LAC, which revealed that paternity leave policies are virtually nonexistent.