By Robert Tapfumaneyi
First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa says Zimbabwean men demanding to be accorded the right to also go on paternity leave to look after their newly born offspring must be prepared to take the responsibilities that come with the holiday.
She was speaking at the inaugural Health Men’s Conference that was organised by the National Aids Council (NAC) in Harare Wednesday.
“Men need to promise me that if you are given paternity leave, you will not disappear from your wives, only to appear after two weeks with lame excuses,” she said.
This comes amid growing demands by men to be also afforded rights to be absent from work to mind their offspring.
The men said this will allow them time to bond with their newly born babies.
Stanford Chimutimunzveve, an advisory board committee member of College of Health Sciences University of Zimbabwe (UZ), said participation of men in some health and family issues is low in the country because of some preventative policies, as men do not get paternity leave.
“I think there are other factors that lead to this,” he said at the event.
“If we look at some polices in this country, men do not have paternity leave from our various work places.”
Auxillia Mnangagwa also challenged some MPs who were part of the event to ensure the contentious issue, as was the case with many other concerns, must be discussed at policy level.
“We are going to lobby for men to have paternity leave from their work places. This has never happened in this country,” she said to a round of applause.
“Paternity leave should be an opportunity for men to learn more about pregnancy and child bearing, spend time with your wives until the child is born.
“Yes as women, we need our husbands during this time because there are times that we are unable to do some chores and you wish your husband were there to help.
“But if you (men) disappear and come back after some time, paternity leave will not add value to your wives and family, and once Parliament has approved and passed the Bill, it’s not a ticket for men to run away from their families and spend time with friends.”
NAC communications manager Tadiwa Pfukwa said the inaugural health men’s conference was meant to give participants the platform to highlight issues that affect their health seeking behaviour.