September 15 2006

PRESS RELEASE

Maternity Protection is a Necessity, NOT a Privilege

Maternity protection for all women workers is a basic necessity, not a privilege, says the Fiji Women's Rights Movement.  This protection is needed for women to be able to fulfil their reproductive role in society.  Society, which includes families, employers, government and the community, is responsible for creating an enabling environment where women are able to carry out this role.

"Women workers have been facing a double burden for years now - they are expected to work as well as bear children and care for their families.  But this is expected to be done on only $5 a day, and we all know that $25 a week cannot feed even a lone mother and child," said FWRM Executive Director Virisila Buadromo.

"The Employment Relations Bill can finally bring about some measure of balance and appropriate protection for women workers as long as the full maternity protection section is retained."

The Movement is also deeply concerned by the recommendation of the Sector Standing Committee on Social Services regarding exemption of maternity protection for garment workers.

"The Fiji Institute of Applied Studies (FIAS) study shows that full maternity protection would only cost the garment industry an additional $199,000.  For an industry worth $250 million that's only 0.0008 per cent, which is insignificant," said Buadromo.

Fiji is obligated to legislate for full maternity protection for workers under international law.  For example, under Article 11 of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which Fiji has ratified.

"Women workers are also protected from discrimination by our own Constitution, under the Bill of Rights," added Buadromo.

ENDS.