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Home News Special Report Wanted: Paternity leave for men!!

Wanted: Paternity leave for men!!

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By Becklang Butack

Of all the roles of women on earth, none is considered as risky as childbearing.  That explains why in some cultures, safe childbirths by women are often celebrated with pomp and prayer sessions to thank God for His mercies.
Due to the demanding pre-natal and post-natal challenges, female civil servants are statutorily entitled to a three-month maternity leave to enable them to recuperate from the rigours of childbearing and look after the newborns.
However, some observers feel that at such crucial moments, husbands also have some key complementary roles to play, adding that their presence by the side of their wives is very much desirable.
This school of thought, therefore, proposes the introduction of “paternity leave” for male civil servants whose wives have just given birth to babies.
Malam Ahmed Hamzah, the Regional Director of Planned Parenthood Federation of Nigeria (PPFN) in the North-East geopolitical zone, belongs to this school of thought.
He underscores the wisdom in giving male civil servants an opportunity to be with their wives after child deliveries, saying that husbands ought to be around to help, support and comfort their spouses.
“The International Planned Parenthood Federation has always supported the idea of having at least a two-week paternity leave for husbands, whose wives have just given birth,” he says.
Mrs Fatima Haliru, a housewife, says that any time she gives birth to a baby, her husband’s presence is somewhat essential.
“His presence is not only necessary but it is also desirable, particularly in the first two weeks after my child delivery. My spirits are always lifted up by his presence,” she says.
Mrs Nancy Choji, the wife of a policeman, describes the notion of introducing paternity leave as “pleasing and great”, particularly for a family that is headed by a soldier or a member of a para-military outfit.
“I move with my husband whenever he is transferred to another place. Sometimes, my relations are not around when I give birth.
“It then means I can have him by my side to help out if he is entitled to some kind of vacation as a result of my childbirth,” she says.
Another housewife, Hajiya Sadiya Babuga, concedes that even though the idea of a paternity leave is a good, there is no guarantee that if the proposed leave is approved, it will not be abused by the beneficiaries.
“While some husbands are caring, others are not. Where is the guarantee that those husbands who are not considerate will not spend the paternity leave somewhere doing something else?” she asks.
Babuga insists that unless reliable mechanisms are put in place to safeguard the leave from being abused, the proposal may turn out to be a sheer waste of man hours at the end of the day.
She, nonetheless, concedes that for caring husbands, the proposed leave is a laudable one, as it is capable of nurturing strong bonds between husbands and wives.
“When a woman gives birth, she needs to be pampered and shown all kinds of love; some husbands are willing to offer this kind of affection.
“Such husbands re-enact their early wedding days and make their wives to feel like Sweet-sixteen,” she adds.
However, Mrs Sakina Hassan, a civil servant, says that the proposal is worth implementing for there will be less cases of abuse, while most husbands will make the best use of the vacation.
“Men should be given the privilege of enjoying paternity leave because it is a period of happiness and celebration for the entire family.
“Husbands, who are eager to see that their spouses enjoy good health, especially after childbirths, will go the extra mile in ensuring the comfort of both the mother and the baby.
“Most mothers endure different kinds of problems during their pregnancies and the troubles include insufficient rest and insomnia, particularly during the late stages of pregnancy.
“They, therefore, deserve a helping hand from their husbands, at least for psychological reasons, even if there are other alternatives,” she says.
Hassan, nonetheless, acknowledges that the proposed paternity leave for men may contradict certain cultural norms and traditions, wherein only close relations of the wife or husband are allowed to come and stay with the woman who has just given birth.
“Some men may find it difficult to rally round the mother and the newborn because members of both families will be willing to help out in every way.
“We have a tradition that if a woman delivers a baby; for the first two weeks or so, members of either the husband’s family or her family will come and stay with her,” she says.
Some husbands are also favourably disposed toward the introduction of paternity leave, stressing that its moral, social and psychological benefits are myriad.
Mr Friday Usman, a civil servant, however, suggests that the proposed paternity leave should even be extended to husbands whose wives had miscarriages.
“The line of demarcation between a woman who gave birth to a baby and the one who had a miscarriage is quite slim; the former had a child and the latter lost a child.
“I think the husband of the latter should also be entitled to some days off to comfort and console his wife,” Usman says.
Malam Nasir Umar, a civil servant, particularly believes that the proposed paternal leave will become quite useful to those husbands working and living in places far away from their families.
“Many civil servants working in expensive cities such as Lagos, Port-Harcourt and Abuja were been forced to leave their families somewhere else because they cannot afford exorbitant school fees or house rents in the cities.
“With the paternity leave in place, such people will have some weeks off to attend to the socio-economic, financial and psychological needs of their wives after childbirths,” he says.
Mr Ibrahim Mohammed, a social psychologist, believes that the proposed arrangement will enable both parents to jointly participate in the early stages of child upbringing.
“Apart from other advantages of this arrangement, there will be a feeling of togetherness and gender equality. This will promote family unity and thus, reduce the rate of divorce in the society,” he says.
Some clerics, however, have divergent views on the matter.
Rev. Irmiya Bajama of the ECWA Church in Tafawa Balewa Housing Estate, Bauchi, says that since the husband is the head of the household, he should be ever ready to do anything to support his spouse.
“If the husband is given an opportunity to stay with his wife who has just given birth, he should be willing to support her and God will be happy with him.
“In my view, the introduction of paternity leave will be a welcome development,” says Bajama.
However, Malam Ahmed Baban-inna, the Chief Imam of Bauchi Central Mosque, insists that God has already apportioned specific responsibilities to the husband and wife, saying that the divine roles supersede any man-made innovation.
“The husband is supposed to be the head of the family and that is why he has the unique responsibility of providing for his family.
“Why should a man need paternity leave? It means that he is being equated with his wife and that amounts to challenging God’s arrangements,” Baban-inna says.
Whichever way the argument goes, observers believe that the introduction of paternity leave for men, particularly at a time when many families are breaking down, will be quite useful, the degree of its usefulness notwithstanding.
The major challenge, the observers add, is the need to ensure that the proposed vacation, if granted, will be used for the intended purpose and not for any extraneous venture.
Source: NAN

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