“I remember one of my previous employers wanted to see why they were unable to retain female talent, so they decided to conduct a focus group, where they got different employees, including senior, junior, married, or single and male or female to come together and closely consider different aspects of the business. We were talking about whether we should have a daycare and flexible timings and what not.”
In March 2023, Muneeza Iftikar, the Head of Legal at FrieslandCampina shared an anecdote with Profit from almost a decade ago to highlight the plight of pregnant women at workplaces.
“One of the only female engineers on site had joined us and while this discussion was happening, she raised her hand. She was expecting a baby, while working and living on the site. The site had just one female toilet on the opposite end of the plant, and because of the nature of the plant, you couldn’t just walk around in it. There used to be a van that took you around because it was a dangerous facility. She told us that she had to spend the whole day waiting for that van for one or two bathroom trips during the workday, but as she was pregnant, she required using the loo more often than before,” Iftikar continued.
“We spent millions on conducting other diversity initiatives, without realising that our one main female employee doesn’t have access to basic bathroom facilities. So, at times there are problems as simple as this and we miss them because women are not a part of the conversation,” Iftikar concluded.
And especially pregnant women. In 2022, the International Labour Organization (ILO) revealed that three in every 10 women of reproductive age — or 649 million women — have inadequate maternity protection that does not meet key requirements of the ILO Maternity Protection Convention, 2000.
In this dark reality, there is finally a glimmer of hope. On 15 May, the National Assembly passed a bill of profound impact, the Maternity and Paternity Leave Bill, 2020. The legislation has been in the works for years, its first draft was passed by the Senate in 2022 and now, it has finally seen the light of the day.