Women are absolutely vital to a countries economic growth and a work environment needs to do all it can to ensure its making the best of all women have to offer.
Over the past few decades, the things have changed when it comes to work life and family life. Years ago men were the providers while women stayed home to tend to the children and the household. Due to the high cost of living, a lot of women now have to take jobs outside the home, plus find the time to take care of the household. In today’s era, balancing family and work is a challenge for women.
The work environment hardly caters for the challenges women face and yet the womans vital role of nurturing the next generation has not diminished.Failing to understand and address a woman’s challenges is inevitably failing to look out for a countries future generation.
When a woman becomes pregnant, work can suddenly become a very different and difficult place.But just like a when she was a girl and taught to mask the discomfort of having her menses or period cramps, a woman in the workplace weathers the discomfort of morning sickness, fatigue and backache during her pregnancy with poise. Equally, when returning to work after having a child the workplace can seem to be daunting. Despite WHO’s recommendation that an infant should be exclusively breastfed for 6 months and breastfeeding continued up to 2 years this is not possible for a working woman. Maternity leave is given for 1-3 months and a woman is expected to get back to the workplace. She discreetly deals with her leaking breasts as she attends meetings during the first weeks at work.There are no provisions given for women to express milk at work or to get time off to feed their babies.That is to be expected since the workplace was designed by men for men. For women returning to work after starting a family there is the cost of childcare to worry about. For families living away from Zambia juggling expensive childcare costs, “importing” nannies from home as they juggle immigration requirements is another headache and barrier to overcome.
Women are encouraged to make it to the top of organisations and professions but very little is done to address the family work balance.If better provisions were made for child care, flexible work schedules,women would be empowered to do more for their work environments.
A large number of women struggle daily with tension resulting from the accumulation of their roles as mothers, wives, career women and community members. The stress affects their physical as well as mental health.
The extent of this problem calls for action on the part of decision makers.Making full use of women’s skills, getting more women into work, and removing the barriers that prevent them from getting ahead should be a priority.Systemic problems which leave women feeling undervalued and penalised should be tackled. This is crucial for not only for our generation but for future generations of women too.Happy Womens Day!