By Victor Ahiuma-Young & Johnbosco Agbakwuru, reporting from Geneva, Switzerland
NIGERIA, yesterday, in Geneva, Switzerland, told delegates at the ongoing International Labour Conference, ILC, that employers of labour in public and private sectors had been barred from sacking women from work due to their marital or maternity status.
Speaking for Nigeria, Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, also announced that the Nigerian government would soon begin the enforcement of the regulation, requesting employers of labour in the public and private sectors to provide work place crèches for nursing mothers for ease at work place.
Ngige said: “The promotion of youth and women employment, and enhancement of the status of women at work continue to be a big challenge in our society over the last decade.
“This has been exacerbated by economic recession brought about by fall in oil prices, militancy in some parts of the country, especially the North East, and the issue of returnee migrants, majority of whom are women and young girls trafficked for slavery and sex work.
“For a country in which females constitute 49.4 per cent of the total population of over 190 million, it is, therefore, imperative that the issues which hinder increased and effective women participation in the labour force be properly addressed.
“To address the issue of gender inequality and youth unemployment, the government drew up and had been implementing an Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
“Government also initiated a School/ to Work (N’Power) programme, designed to empower young women and men with skills to facilitate their entry into the labour market. The programme has an initial 2- year life span.”
Giving specific measures, the ministers said, “In terms of specific measures to address inequality our government recorded some successes in the following areas: The principle of equal pay for equal work for all, without discrimination on account of sex, is enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended. A Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE) is in place to promote girl/child school enrolment and also put in place special packages for women in the region for their economic empowerment.
“Employers of labour in both the public and private sectors are by regulation requested to provide work place crèches for nursing mothers for ease at work place. In the Public Service, Government recently 1ncreased the period for maternity leave from 12 to 16 weeks to allow enough recuperation time for both baby and mother, especially in the area of breast feeding. In addition all disciplinary proceedings against any female staff which might have been taken during the period of her maternity leave shall be put in abeyance till the expiration of the leave.
“Employers of labour are also barred from removal of women from work due to their marital or maternity status, Illegal labour migration, contract staffing and labour casualization which affects most women, are being reformed through policies and regulations at national, bilateral and multilateral levels.”
According to him: “Other areas of achievement include: Provision of Micro/credit soft loans to Market Women, Female. Artisans and Women Entrepreneurs on the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) and the establishment of Sustainable Development Goal office in the Presidency towards the actualization of Goals 6 and 8 on Gender Equality and Decent Work for all. Offer of free medical services to pregnant women and children under 5 years in many federating States of the country.
“The ratification, domestication and implementation of the Maternity Protection Convention No. 186 and conscious effort to ensure that more women enjoy maternity protection in the country. The introduction of Home Grown School feeding programmes at National and subnational levels to address education for all by increasing school enrolment and retention for both boys and girls. This has eased the burden of feeding on many mothers especially those; at work and has created additional jobs as cooks ‘ and caterers for rural women. The ongoing Work with social partners and foreign Donors to progressively extend social security coverage to the informal sector where majority of women operate.”
The Minister however informed that a lot needed to “be done in terms of putting in place appropriate legislation, policies and practices to deal with the gender gaps that inhibit greater participation of women in the labour force. The most effective method of eliminating gender inequality from the workplace lies in vigorous opposition to employers’ discriminatory conducts, policies and harassment 1n all forms wherever and whenever they occur. Women who fall victim to these abuses are encouraged to oppose such through legal actions and reporting to labour Inspectors.
The infusion into labour inspection Guides Laws and Code of practice, with severe sanctions and serious punitive measures are prescribed as future deterrents. In this respect, we will need the Technical Assistance of the ILO 1n the area of gender Audits, considering the good news that the ILO 11.0 has 1n her pool, over 80 certified Audit facilitators. We can adopt the Train the Trainers (TOT) approach 1n this regard.”