A recent news article on Uganda’s new paternity bill is a sign that African countries are doing what it takes to change some of the patriarchal systems we inherited from our forefathers. The world has evolved and it is important for us to empower and support women as well as do whatever it takes to have stronger family units.
This May, Ugandan Members of Parliament increased paternity leave days from four to seven days. In Kenya and a number of other ‘forward thinking’ African countries, fathers in employment are entitled to 2 weeks off to attend to their newborns. Globally, countries such as Canada, Norway, Finland and Sweden go up to 35 weeks or more while some countries like the US do not have federal laws passed on this yet and therefore paternity leave days vary from company to company.
Ugandans are currently more focused on fighting their LGBTQ laws and other issues so this news may go uncelebrated but there were some reactions to it. A twitter user by the name Michael Yimer shared the a similar sentiment saying, “In the USA, even the mother is not allowed a Maternity leave! And they call Uganda barbaric, Uganda is on the right path!” Other reactions compared the paltry seven days to the other countries that seem to be doing more, insinuating that one week is too little and they could have definitely made it even a month long. Fair enough, however, Uganda did choose to gradually ease into paternity leave days.
BBC’s Focus on Africa spoke to a new father Chris, who was excited about the change acknowledging that the leave will also help support the mother right after childbirth. Journalist Esau Williams also shared that the Ugandan parliament is likely to amend the number of days in future and this is just a start. He congratulated Chris for being among the ‘new school’ dads fighting for and embracing this change because not many Ugandan men seem to think this is a big deal.
Paternity leaves and conversations where fathers are actively involved in pre and post-partum or even in early childhood years are relatively new to us as a continent. Yes, there are those exceptions but even some relatively younger dads still think all these tasks should be left to women. This is honestly wrong and unfair as both parents being present at every stage of their child’s lives is quite beneficial.
Paternity leave is important for a number of reasons. It allows fathers to bond with their newborns and to share the responsibilities of childcare with their partners. It can also help to reduce the gender pay gap, as fathers who take paternity leave are less likely to be passed over for promotions or raises. Additionally, paternity leave can help to improve the health and well-being of both parents and children.
Africa has been behind or simply keeps turning a blind eye on a number of important societal issues but it’s good to see lawmakers moving in the right direction.