Rural-based female teachers have called for longer maternity leave, arguing that giving birth is a national duty. In Zimbabwe, formally employed women are entitled to a maximum three months maternity leave.
Speaking at a Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) meeting in Gweru over the weekend — which drew scores of teachers from across 20 districts of the eight rural provinces — most female teachers demanded longer maternity stay.
“Can the government please grant us unlimited maternity leave because giving birth is a national duty, which must be respected,” said a Gweru teacher, who preferred anonymity.
“We also want government to introduce paternity leave for our husbands so that they are involved in the development of our babies.
“It’s important for both parents to be there in the early days of a child’s life,” she said.
Speaking at the same event, American political and national security strategist Johanna Leblanc said women must fight for their rights and better working conditions.
She compassionately identified with the challenges facing rural female teachers.
“I sympathise with the challenges facing teachers in Zimbabwe. Globally, teachers are generally underpaid and work under stressful conditions of limited resources and often restrictive legislation,” she said, adding “this scenario is even more grievous for female teachers who have the additional burden of patriarchy and discrimination,” she said.
She emphasised that it was crucial for teachers to continue with their multiple role as “educators, counsellors, psychologists, aunties and mothers to the pupils they teach”.
Leblanc also touched on the need for protection of the girl-child from the scourge of child marriages and sexual abuse.
“As teachers, you occupy a unique position in society as you spend more time with children and they often open up to you on the many challenges they face in life.
“Utilise your position and the advocacy of your union to advance the issues facing the girl child in schools. Most of these girls drop out of school and are abused, you must be their immediate point of protection,” she said.
Leblanc also challenged female teachers to play an active role in the governance of Artuz and the nation at large.
“You are the leaders so go out there and lead your union and nation.” DailyNews