Misihairabwi-Mushonga brings baby to Parliament to prove a point


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Controversial non-constituency Member of Parliament Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga yesterday brought a baby to Parliament to prove that women legislators, some of whom were breast-feeding, were not being treated equally by being denied an opportunity to bring their children to the House to breast-feed them if necessary.

Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda agreed with her and allowed her to keep the baby in the House.

Misihairabwi-Mushonga caused a stir in the House in July when she paraded used pants and called for a ban on the sale of such garments because this was degrading to women.

Yesterday she said most of the women in the House were child-bearing but could not bring their children to the House because the standing provisions did not allow that yet the constitution said legislators should have equal opportunities.

“I think it is correct that we do not have provisions or facilities to bring babies here so that those Members of Parliament who are breast feeding and would like to come to the House to debate can do so and go back to breast feed the children within the premises of Parliament,” Mudenda said in response.

“I am aware  that the labour law does allow, I think extended long leave, maternity leave for parents especially mothers to go and take care of their children. If it is not possible, they can come within the premises but we need to provide for such facilities in future. I thank you, I think you have made a point.”

 

Full debate:

 

Hon. Misihairabwi-Mushonga having brought a baby in Parliament.

THE HON. SPEAKER: Order, may I ask Hon. MisihairabwiMushonga to bring my grandchild here. Hon. Misihairabwi-Mushonga took the baby to the Hon. Speaker. Hon. Members, we have a unique spectre this afternoon. I have conferred with Hon. Misihairabwi-Mushonga and we have discussed and amicably agreed to let her explain herself without me ruling.

HON. MISIHAIRABWI-MUSHONGA: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir for giving me this opportunity. Mr. Speaker, this was meant to stress a particular point. Yes, as I always do, this particular House and this Parliament is not women friendly. Most of these women that you are beginning to see in this House are child bearing and there is nothing here in this Parliament that allows you to bring a baby, be looked after and breast feed. In our Standing Rules and Orders, we do not have anything that allows anybody to take time out – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] –

THE HON. SPEAKER: Order, please go ahead.

HON. MISIHAIRABWI-MUSHONGA: Our Constitution Mr. Speaker makes sure that both men and women have equal opportunity to participate in political activities. As long as we are hamstrung by the inability to be able to do so, because we have to look after babies – as it is today, it is an important debate day. I do not have anybody to look after the baby, so I have to come here and debate. I understand because I looked at the Standing Rules and Orders and there is no provision that  allows somebody to bring in a baby. I had dwelled on the basis that this baby cannot be called a stranger and therefore, had brought the baby to the House.

I am hoping that after I have made this and I have agreed with you that I am going to take the baby out, it is going to be a point about ensuring that both our Standing Rules and Orders and everything else, facilitates for women to participate effectively in issues of political work. So, I am going to take the baby out but with a heavy heart because I think I could still have debated with the baby here. I thank you Mr. Speaker.

THE HON. SPEAKER: Sit down – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear,hear.] – Hon. Member, please take a seat with the baby. I am sure Hon. Members have heard the statement from the hon. member with the baby. I think it is correct that we do not have provisions or facilities to bring babies here so that those Members of Parliament who are breast feeding and would like to come to the House to debate can do so and go back to breast feed the children within the premises of Parliament. I am aware  that the labour law does allow, I think extended long leave, maternity leave for parents especially mothers to go and take care of their children.

If it is not possible, they can come within the premises but we need to provide for such facilities in future. I thank you, I think you have made a point.

(108 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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