GIVE WOMEN SIX MONTHS MATERNITY LEAVE
The holy month of Ramadan is likely to grind to a halt within the next 24 hours if the crescent is sighted this evening. This is coming after 29 days of fasting. It will be rounded up by the Id ul-Fitr festival prayers all over the country.
The significance of the Ramadan season lies in its capacity to serve as an effective training ground for the faithful. It prepares them physically, morally and spiritually. Physically, it improves the health of the nation as those who participated in the exercise are already giving testimonies of a healthier carriage. This is a boost to health records in this country because a healthy nation is a wealthy nation.
Morally, the fasting period has seen a significant fall in the rate of immorality among Muslims who actively participated in the season. This was made possible by the proliferation of sermons in mosques and public Ramadan lectures as well as on radio and television both in the days and nights of Ramadan. Muslims among Nigerian leaders have also witnessed the power of Ramadan. This has the tendency to soften their hearts and make them put the plights of the masses into consideration on national issues.
Spiritually, more Muslims attended mosques and engaged in Islamic programmes during Ramadan. This trend is likely to continue for some time even after Ramadan before its effect begins to wear out.
Yet the greatest significance of Ramadan lies in its being a catalyst of merciful interactions between leaders and the led, between masters and their servants and between workers and their employers.
In this regard and to kick off the manifestation of mercy in our society, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) uses the opportunity of the Salah period to call on the Nigerian authorities to show mercy to working-class nursing mothers by increasing the period of their maternity leave by three months. Hitherto, nursing mothers enjoy three months only as maternity leave.
We consider the three months leave as inadequate and unrealistic in view of recommendations coming from medical experts that newly born children should be strictly placed on breast-milk diet only for the first six months. Experience has also shown that nursing mothers who work in offices undergo a lot of hardship on resumption as they are compelled to start work after just three months. It must added that the sufferings of these nursing mothers are transferred to and shared by their innocent babies.
It is significant to note that the Glorious Qur'an stipulates a two-year breastfeeding period (Qur'an 2:232). Modern science has only recently discovered that breast milk is the best for babies. Women are held in high esteem by Islam. A whole chapter of the Glorious Qur'an (Surat ul-Nisai chapter 4) is dedicated to women. Islam seeks to make life more abundant for women.
Finally, MURIC calls on the National Assembly to initiate an enabling bill in this regard. We assert the Nigerian woman deserves the pride of place in the Nigerian society. We therefore charge the Federal and state governments to adopt policies capable of reducing poverty among Nigerian women in general.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC),
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