Pakistani students have been given the opportunity to take a maternity leave of up to 14 days after they give birth in the country.
The move, which was announced on Thursday, was implemented on a trial basis.
It is a milestone in the fight for women’s rights in Pakistan, and the first time that women are given the right to take time off during pregnancy.
However, many of the measures implemented to accommodate women’s labour have not been widely adopted by the country’s public sector, which has been criticised for not taking steps to address the issues of social stigma and discrimination faced by women.
In the past, women’s health and labour rights have been considered a sensitive issue in Pakistan.
Women in rural areas are often forced to bear the brunt of economic pressures on their families, while many of them live in poverty.
The government’s Women’s Commission for Reform and Women’s Development, chaired by Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, has recommended measures such as providing financial incentives to women who choose to take maternity leave, making it compulsory for women to get their diplomas before they can apply for employment, and increasing the minimum wage for all women to help them get an education.
The government has also made it easier for women who are currently pregnant to return to work after giving birth.
The policy is aimed at helping women who face discrimination in the labour market and the economy, said Adeline Khawaja, executive director of the Pakistan Maternity Rights Network.
But, she added, the policy does not take into account the fact that many women do not have the right conditions for labour during pregnancy and childbirth, such as a safe workplace, good family care and adequate healthcare.
She also noted that many of those who take maternity leaves do not want to be seen as “lazy”, or to face stigma and fear of discrimination.
“It is also a measure to be used for the protection of the labour rights of women, especially when they are at work,” she said.
But Dr Zainab Hossain, a medical doctor from the University of Peshawar, said that although the policy may have a positive impact, it will not change the basic reality that many families are still struggling to cope with the challenges faced by many of their women.
Dr Hossian said that the government’s move to give women the right of choice is not sufficient.
“I don’t think the government will take care of the needs of women’s empowerment.
The best way to solve this problem is for the government to provide adequate funding for women and support their work, she said, adding that women’s participation in the workforce should be encouraged.
Dr Haider Mian, a professor of maternal and child health at the University’s Faculty of Medicine, said there is still a long way to go before the policy will be fully implemented.”
The policy will help a small group of women to be able to work and support themselves, but I don’t believe it will help all women,” she told Al Jazeera.
‘We need more money’In the meantime, women who opt for maternity leave face challenges, said Zahra Jameel, a senior researcher with the Pakistani Centre for Policy Research and Education (PCPRE), a think tank.
They are often faced with financial problems, which in turn increases their stress levels and the stress of having to be at home all the time, said Jameer.
She added that the policy, while being a positive step, does not address the issue of stigma surrounding women who decide to take leave during pregnancy, which is prevalent in rural Pakistan.”
It will be important to do more research on the benefits of the policy before the implementation, but this will be a first step,” she added.
Jameel said that as far as the policy is concerned, the government should have focused on ensuring that women who took maternity leave had access to healthcare, childcare and other necessary services, as well as being able to continue to work if needed.
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