Parental leave is not a ‘women’s only’ issue

Gender dimensions have burdened women with all household responsibilities, especially child care, since forever. However, time is changing now and along with it is changing people’s views on gender roles. More and more women are getting involved in the world outside of their households and are dreaming of a successful career. If they continue to bear the years old burden of maintaining a family alone, their dreams are never going to come true. The world will miss out on a wide range of knowledge and creativity that all the great women could give birth to. But a new idea is not that easy to be regularized in a tradition-oriented society like Bangladesh. In order to convert this concept into practice, governmental and institutional force is more than necessary. That is because it is not only the burden of chores that is dragging women down but also their rights are stake. According to an article published in NEWAGE Opinion, RMG workers have to work for around 16 to 18 hours a day and then return home to a huge load of chores. This increases the toil on them and also obstructs them from participating in union activities for which they cannot speak up for their rights at either home or work. Many women drop out of their career track after child birth because the responsibilities of child care along with household work and career becomes overwhelming. A research paper titled “Time Use of Women and Men (unpaid care work)” states that unpaid care work like household chores, child care, and looking after the elderly often remain uncharted in national accounting systems because of the disadvantageous position of women in our society. The paper further states that women spend around 1 hour in paid work while men spend more than 5. Therefore, it is crucial that both the government and private institutions overcome their drawbacks in child care facilities and introduce paternity leave and child care centers so that the mothers don’t have to put a pause in their journey to success.

At present the idea of paternity leave is quite popular in places outside Bangladesh, even in our neighbor countries. Although it has been the tradition that only mothers will take the responsibility of child care, this idea has to be reformed. However, firstly the prejudice towards reforms has to be removed from the minds of the Bangladeshi citizens. Any sort of change, especially gender role related, is not well received in this society. The root cause of this is the

ingrained patriarchal ideology among people where men are inflated with the power of working outside and women’s career goals are nipped in the bud by forcing child care and household responsibilities on them. The government of Bangladesh has mandated 15 days of paternal leave since the year 2014. Regulatory bodies should be formed in order to monitor the public and private institutions regarding their compliance with this new law. The National Curriculum Textbook Board (NCTB) must move from including chapters about child care and household chores and field work separately in Home Economics and Agricultural Studies books respectively. Rather a subject combining them both should be introduced and taught to students regardless of their gender. Employers and public figures need to set examples of breaking such gender stereotypes and introduce reinforcements for whoever resonates with that practice. This will encourage more people to try this reformed practice and realize its benefits. Eventually it will become a regular practice and the broader society will gradually comes to terms with the newly defined roles for fathers and mothers. This practice will help us retain our position in being the country ranked first in Asia for establishing gender equality.

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