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WHY SHOULD EUROPE INCREASE THE MATERNITY LEAVE?
Women with disabilities face barriers and discrimination in society, even more than men with disabilities. The European Disability Forum made gender issues a priority to reach specific objectives and change the lives of more than 25,000 women with disabilities in Europe. Disabilitiy Voice spoke with Gunta Anca, member of the committee and representing EDF in the Board of Directors of the European Women Lobby.
Disability Voice: What is EDF doing to improve the life of women with disabilities?
Gunta Anca: One of our current concerns is to increase the maternity leave for women with disabilities but we also have to highlight complex and more vulnerable situation for our group and a lack of protection such as adoption and fostering of children with disabilities. Therefore, striving towards equal rights and opportunities for women with disabilities has been a priority for the European Disability Forum since many years already. Women created their own committee, supporting EDF in all its work on gender equality. Our Women’s committee allows EDF to work towards mainstreaming disability within gender equality policies and measures, as well as mainstreaming gender equality within disability policies. Furthermore, our active involvement in the European Women’s Lobby also help us to support EDF work.
DV: What would be the right duration of leave?
GA: The Commission just proposed to increase the minimum number of weeks for maternity leave from 14 to 20 weeks. In addition to that, EDF suggests that Member States shall take necessary measures to ensure that additional leave is granted in case of , for example, the birth of a child with a disability. The duration of the additional leave should be proportionate and allow the special needs of the mother and/or the child to be accommodated. In practice EDF is asking for a continuous period of maternity of at least 24 weeks allocated before and after the birth.
DV: Why would women with disabilities need longer time to accommodate?
GA: Sometimes, maternity occurs in more complex environments, as in the case of adoptions and fostering of children with disabilities and that of mothers with disabilities. Neither of these circumstances is covered or proposed in the EU, and they should be considered as difficult situation in the same way as the ones derived from multiple births, premature childbirth, children hospitalised at birth. In all these cases mother and children also are going to need more time to get used and adapt themselves into the new situation in order to achieve a good development of family life. Most of the time, maternity brings women with disability to a situation of particular dependency of third parties to carry out daily living activities and, therefore to take care of their children: they often find themselves in a disadvantaged position due to the fact that they lack an adequate provision of resources. Moreover, existing social services like family planning or pre natal classes are not always as accessible as for the rest of the population for different reasons such as prejudices non-accessible public premises and lack of information. Both situations result in the need for women with disability to take longer time to accommodate and adapt to this new situation.As the European Union population is ageing, every effort should be made to challenge the birth rate and build a society attractive to families. It is one of the greatest tasks of the maternity leave directive proposed by the European Commission in 2008. This directive, discussed in 2008, also ensures equal treatment for every future mother regardless in which country she lives in, and whether she has a disability or not. Important condition of the Directive is to be as flexible as possible, because only in such a way, it can provide the best support for every family, including those with children and parents with disabilities.
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