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FEATURE: Boosting Nigerian Female Workers’ Productivity Via Friendly Policies

Jun 8, 2023

By Martha Agas

On many occasions, women have persistently solicited improvement in their engagement in public and private offices, considering their roles outside such offices as mothers or mothers-to-be.

Most women are concerned by peculiar challenges that impede their productivity, arguing that they can work better in a friendly environment.

Women also allege that female workers can suffer discrimination in accessing opportunities during recruitment exercises or at the workplace because of the suspicion that they may not discharge their duties efficiently due to domestic factors or their physiological makeup.

They cite the position of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on gender equality and improvement of the working conditions of women and advocacy of many women groups for special consideration for working-class women.

In her opinion, the Chairperson of the Nigeria Union of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) in Plateau state, Nene Dung, says improving the productivity of the female worker requires psychologists in organisations because women carry a lot of burdens.

“She has a lot on her chest; she has a lot of load she is carrying. If employers can make provision for a psychologist to be in every office where, at least, female workers have opportunity to talk to a professional, it will be nice because they won’t take matters to social media,’’ she notes.

According to her, organisations should make it compulsory for women to go on annual leave even if their work schedule is very tight, and they should not limit it to only married women.

However, critics of women’s position have argued that the Nigerian government has prepared enough enabling environment for female workers to be productive.

They note that in the 2009 Nigerian Labour Law, female public-sector employees have been granted 16 weeks of maternity leave at full pay and two hours off-duty every day once they come back to work to breastfeed their babies.

In spite of this, female workers insist that the length of leave maternity leave is not all that is needed to place women better in public or private offices.

They insist that they are faced with struggles to ensure that domestic responsibilities would not conflict with their career progression by ensuring balance in family and work life.

A senior civil servant in the National Veterinary Research Institute, Jos, Mrs Dorcas Tony, says there is a need for the Federal Government to review its maternity leave from four to six months, with an option where a woman can choose to take up to a year for maternity leave.

“If government grants six months with pay, a woman should be able to take six more months without pay if she chooses, so that she can fully recover because resuming shortly after childbirth can be stressful,’’ she observes.

She recommends day-care services in addition at offices at subsidised rates to boost the productivity of the female workers, advising that organisations with staff schools should also provide scholarship schemes for staff members.

Similarly, a broadcaster, Lisa Gwamzhi, notes that for enhanced performance of a nursing mother, her child’ gives her mental stability and determines her productivity through the provision of functional and secured crèches in organisations.

“For female workers to function properly also require the need for a decent restroom which has been downplayed in many workplaces.

“This is because women are physiologically different from men, so they have unique needs,’’ she notes.

Ijeoma Okereke-Adagba of the Centre of Journalism Innovation Development observes that female workers should be encouraged in their duties and take care of their mental health.

A civil servant in a federal parastatal in Jos who pleaded anonymity says menstrual health management should also be adopted in organisations through the provision of decent toilets exclusive for women as they require special care.

“In my organisation, we have one toilet for more than 40 staff, both men and women; the sanitary condition is not decent for us, especially when we are on our monthly periods,’’ she notes.

She observes that the International Labour Organisation standards on equality provide tools for eliminating discrimination in all aspects of work and society.

This notwithstanding, many women insist that some employers discriminate against women in their recruitment policies by blacklisting married women at their reproductive ages or engaging them with stringent conditions.

They note that chances of realising their potential require a multi-sectoral approach involving deliberate efforts to ensure that institutional policies align with the revised gender policy of Nigeria.

They call for an aggressive campaign for support from critical stakeholders to embrace laws that help women realise their potential at the workplace while also performing their domestic responsibilities.

According to them, the celebration of Workers’ Day provides a platform for a clarion call for the institutionalisation of gender-sensitive workplace policies to help women balance their official and domestic responsibilities efficiently.

Judith Kumbur, who worked in the private sector before establishing her business, observes that the slogan –“women supporting women’’ — should be made active by female workers in workplaces through mentorship to build women’s confidence.

“The mentorship can guide the female worker and build her capacity to navigate into leadership position in the work place seamlessly,’’ she said.

Corroborating Kumbur’s viewpoint, Amina Oyagbola, the founder of Women in Successful Careers, notes that women should create opportunities for themselves to amplify their voices.

“While stringent policies are required to handle issues of sexual harassment at workplaces and other numerous challenges of the female worker, environment conducive for women inclusion in leadership position to participate in decision-making would help in addressing their challenges holistically,’’ she observes.

All in all, stakeholders expect that as Workers’ Day is observed every May 1 to highlight workers’ contributions to the development and seek improvement in their welfare, friendly work policies should be considered and adopted in workplaces for women to enable female workers to have a balanced work and family life.

They believe this will boost women workers’ potential and contributions to national development, even in leadership roles.