100 years of the Maternity Protection Convention: a seminary at ILO in Geneva

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ILO Photo Collection
ILO

GENEVA, NOVEMBER 5 – The year 2019 marks both the ILO’s first centenary and the 100th anniversary of international labour standards on maternity protection. It was during the first International Labour Conference (ILC) in November 1919 that the Maternity Protection Convention, 1919 (No.3), the first gender equality international labour standard, was adopted. The convention recognised the right to paid leave with childbirth with employment protection. This major achievement was the result of strong advocacy, including during the Women’s Labour Congress in 1919.

Fast-forward to June 2019, when the ILC adopted the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, which calls for “achieving gender equality at work through a transformative agenda”.

Marking the Centenary of the first international labour standards on maternity protection offers a unique opportunity to reflect on the progress and challenges of realising this crucial right and to call on member States to ratify and implement Convention No. 183 and Recommendation No. 19 (ILO, 2019b, Section IV, part B). Even though maternity protection and benefits are central to advancing the rights, health and economic security of women and their families, only 41 per cent of women with newborns receive maternity cash benefits that provide them with income security around childbirth (ILO, 2018b). Effective access to quality maternal health care is still not universal. Discrimination, violence and harassment based on pregnancy, maternity and family responsibilities is endemic everywhere. Many formal and informal workplaces remain unsafe and unhealthy for all workers, especially pregnant and nursing women.

On 8 November 2019, the ILO and the European Commission, in collaboration with UNICEF, UN Women, the WHO and the International Network on Leave Policies & Research (INLPR), will host an expert seminar on maternity protection and care policies with senior policymakers, to mark these primary concerns of the ILO.

The seminar will draw on the scholarly expertise of the International Network on Leave Policies & Research, EU, ILO and UN research as well as practices by ILO constituents from different regions, G7 and EU Member States as well as middle- and low-income countries. It will gather ILO constituents, EU representatives and participants from other collaborating UN organizations, NGOs and the academia.

The seminar will offer an opportunity to display an expanded version of the photo exhibition “Portrait of a (Working) Mother”, by Italian photographer Marina Cavazza, covering different regional realities. This exhibition will be complemented by pictures of fathers on parental leave in order to raise awareness among ILO constituents and the general public of the importance of leave sharing and an equal distribution of paid work as well as unpaid care work between women and men. The exhibition will run from 7 November until 15 November, 2019.

Marina Cavazza’s first monograph, Marcinelle 1956-2006. Nell’intimità della memoria, was published by Peliti Associati, with an introduction by award winning writer Melania Mazzucco. Portrait of a (Working) Mother with Egle Kackute has been published in 2019 by Georg Editeur with introductions by Sandrine Salerno (Mayor of Geneva) and Dalie Leinarte (UN CEDAW). (@OnuItalia)