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Opinions of Thursday, 4 December 2014

Journaliste: Foster Asante

Debate working hours for married women


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As a community practising pharmacist, I have followed from a distance the life of a young female banker who is regular at the community pharmacy outlet where I work.

I guess I got attached to her story because when I started work a few years ago, banking was what I fancied my then girlfriend; (now my wife) would venture into. Lady bankers are always smartly and formally dressed, coupled with their mostly good communication skills, I seem to have a soft spot for them.

However, there were things I later learnt about their working conditions that made me pause for a thought about being this fixated on female bankers. For example, apparently some of them have clause(s) in their contract which direct(s) that they suspend any plans of childbirth activities for the first two-three years of their working life in addition to tight and long working schedules.

Elsie is a teller in one of the banks in Winneba; married; resides in Kasoa; commutes to Winneba to work (8a.m.-8p.m.) every day on commercial vehicles and her 14-month-old son is being taken care of by her mum at Kasoa.

The last time Elsie stopped by the pharmacy was a few days ago. She had rushed in around 8.23 p.m. to buy some medicine(s) as she had been called by her mum earlier in the afternoon that her son had a bit of cough. Not having her own means of transportation means that she gets back home around 9.30p.m. if she is lucky, after leaving home around 6.30a.m.

According to Elsie, her marriage is a mess and at breaking point because of the nature of her work because she is hardly home to discharge her wifely and motherly duties. Much as her husband sometimes tries to be supportive and understanding, she also knows all too well that an African man expects to come home to eat his wife’s freshly prepared meals.

The husband is apparently getting fed up with coming home and having to microwave food from the fridge. She mostly comes home to meet the whole household asleep, and on a day she is lucky to meet the husband not asleep, he so fumes within that a simple ‘how was your day sweet heart?’ from her is enough to ignite an argument with hints of accusations of possible infidelity levelled against her as possible reasons why she comes home late. As if all that is not enough, Elsie would tell you the most heartbreaking bit of this whole experience is the bit where her 14-month old son looks at her like a total stranger.

This young lady, whose professional and family life story is being highlighted in this piece, typifies that of thousands of other young married professional women in the country and possibly ‘products’ of the ‘Girl Child Education’ policy embarked on by successive governments over the last two to three decades.

However, it’s all beginning to look like all of us, including the state, the corporate world and the society, are becoming the very agents who might cause the downfall of these very women we all have collectively prepared and invested so much in.

This is because most of these women find themselves operating in mostly male dominated professions where rules and policies apply equally to everybody. She is expected to compete with and produce the same results as her male counterparts in the office, yet ensure that her husband’s dinner is ready before he gets home and also provide excellent motherhood to the children in addition to other core wifely duties.

So, I dare ask; where are all the women’s right groups and the senior corporate women high up the corporate ladder and what are their take on these issues? For those women high up the corporate ladder and like Mordecai replied Queen Esther in the book of Esther 4:14 “............... And who knows whether you have not come to a royal position at such a time as this”. (RSV) Perhaps this is a good time nationally to start dialoguing /debating some of these pertinent issues.

For instance, is it possible for all married women in whatever establishment to close from work at about 3p.m. at the very latest? She can then pick up and catch up with the children on what they ate at school, etc. and still have enough time on her hands to cook dinner for the whole family, including daddy who gets home after 6 p.m. and is mostly so hungry that he is not in a good mood until he has had his dinner.

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