In a bid to sustain the momentum for the passage of a law that will double the number of paid maternity leave days of women, more than a hundred expectant mothers in Barangay Commonwealth, Quezon City held a "Buntis Congress" on Monday to call on the government to implement a modern and progressive maternity leave policy.
The pregnant women, led by Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros, Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte, Rep. Sol Aragones, Vice Chair of House of Representatives Committee on Women and Gender Equality and Akbayan Partylist Rep. Tom Villarin, urged the Duterte administration to grant all female workers, regardless of civil status or legitimacy of her child, 120 days maternity leave with pay and an option to extend it for another 30 days without pay. They also wanted 30 days to be allotted to their husbands and/or alternate caregivers.
Hontiveros, who is also the Chair of the Senate Committee on Women, said that an enhanced maternity leave policy at par with international standards and which can truly address the physical, mental and economic burden of pregnancy is long overdue. "We need a new maternity leave policy that will provide adequate paid maternity leave days for working mothers to fully recover from childbirth, properly care for their child and establish a stronger mother-child bond through breastfeeding," she said.
"Not an extended vacation"
Hontiveros also explained that the passage of an expanded maternity leave law does not mean a vacation for mothers.
"Hindi bakasyon ang hinihingi ng mga nanay at kababaihan kundi pagkilala sa kanilang natatanging papel bilang tagapagdala ng buhay sa mundong ito. We want women to have the chance to take care of their children and their health and well-being without worrying about the economic costs of being away from employment," Hontiveros said.
It was reported that the Senate under Hontiveros' leadership as Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Women has already passed on third and final reading the Expanded Maternity Leave Law of 2017. However, the measure's counterpart bill in the House of Representatives is still waiting approval from its members.
The Buntis Congress was organized by the offices of Hontiveros and Belmonte in partnership with the Department of Health (DoH)-National Capital Region, Senate Gender and Development Focal Point, House Committee on Women and Gender Equality and Akbayan Women. It provided free medical services for pregnant women such as pre-natal checkup, ultrasound, laboratory examination, dental health care and counselling. A Lamaze session was also conducted.
It is the first in a series of Buntis Congresses that will take place in different parts of the country to actively campaign for the passage of the Expanded Maternity Leave Bill.