The Rwanda Civil Society Platform (RCSP) is pushing for a review of gaps related to the implementation of a number of gender laws and policies. Among the proposals, civil society has suggested that new fathers should be granted paternity leave that is equivalent to half of the maternity leave that is currently being offered to new mothers. The platform seeks to develop a policy brief that analyses the possible implications of the law regulating labour in Rwanda, the law establishing general statutes governing public servants and the law determining offences and penalties. The platform is composed of 11 national umbrella civil society organisations made up of 1,478 member organisations Its Executive Secretary, John Bosco Nyemazi, explains that although Rwanda has shown its commitment to narrowing gender gaps, in order to achieve gender equality fully it is important to constantly review and check for any progressive laws and policies that may hinder that journey. “It is always important to look back and ascertain whether or not some of the progressive norms, laws and provisions require further amendment or repeal or if there is any suggestion for effective implementation of those progressive norms and the kind of barriers that may still hinder the full realisation gender equality,” he said. For instance, he points out that while article 56 of the law regulating labour in Rwanda provides for at least 12 weeks of maternity leave for new mothers, new fathers have to make do with only four working days off, which are offered under circumstantial leave. He further explains that the difference in the time off that both parties are given affects the new father’s ability to support his partner and infant in case of sickness or other complications as serious as postpartum stress-related issues. Besides the push for more time, Nyemazi explains that the platform would like to see the title of the leave changed from maternity to parental. Participate in unpaid care work The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, Assumpta Ingabire says that while ideas on promoting gender rights are always welcome, final touches are being put on a strategy to engage men, with a focus on young boys to change mindsets on their role in unpaid care work. Unpaid care and domestic work refers to all non-market, unpaid activities carried out in households – including both direct care of persons, such as children or elderly, and indirect care, such as cooking, cleaning or fetching water. According to a survey conducted by Action Aid Rwanda, Rwandan rural women spend an average of 6-7 hours per day on unpaid care work while men spend 1-3 hours per day. “We need men on board. When men fully embrace the idea of sharing domestic unpaid care work, we can go back to the drawing board. It is not impossible but we have to first change their attitude towards this work,” she said. The Chairperson of the Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre (RWAMREC), Venant Nzabonimpa says that men must first be fully engaged in the unpaid care work in the household before they push for longer paternity leave. “A law should be put in place to fix or prevent a potential problem. I would like to invite men to be actively involved when the expectant mother needs support and after the baby arrives so that at least we have what to base on when pushing for these changes,” he said. He added that his organisation was already seeing positive results among the men and boys that it has been sensitising in Gatsibo and Musanze districts about changing their attitudes regarding housework. Patrick Kananga, the Acting Director of Labour Administration at the Ministry of Labour, said that although there are still gaps in some gender laws, the political will to make changes where needed is always present. However, he pointed out that changing the terminology from maternity to parental leave may not change soon since Rwanda goes by the terminologies set by the International Labour Organisation which is still using maternity. Not the first time This is not the first time a law on paternity leave has been raised. While approving the draft law establishing the general statute governing public servants in June last year, some members of the Lower Chamber of Parliament raised the need for paternity leave ranging between four to eight weeks. MP Eugene Barikana said that paternity leave has been thought about for long, but progress to establish it has been slow. “A father also needs leave, no matter how long it is, when their wife has given birth, especially because the legislation intends to support the family, and the role of the father is very important after birth,” he said. MP John Ruku-Rwabyoma said that a newborn baby should be with both parents in line with wellness and bonding. “A new father needs at least one to two months of paternity leave. Fathers need some time to take care of the new mother and to bond with the new babies,” he said. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), a statutory right to paid paternity leave is found in 70 countries, underlining the trend of greater involvement of fathers around childbirth. But, the UN labour agency says that only 5 countries, all among the Developed Economies (Finland, Iceland, Lithuania, Portugal and Slovenia) provide paternity leave of more than two weeks.