Parenthood Has no Gender: A Campaign to Raise Awareness of Fathers’ Right to Maternity Leave

Together with UNFPA – the UN Population Fund, and the company Violeta, we launched a campaign to promote engaged fatherhood and initiate discussions about the barriers that fathers in Bosnia and Herzegovina face in using paternity leave, which is guaranteed to them by law in all levels of government.

A 2022 research by the Sarajevo Open Centre showed that almost 60% of fathers do not know that they have the right to parental leave, and only 2.6% of them used this right. Those who did use parental leave encountered certain ambiguities and administrative barriers that slowed down the process of exercising this right.

Jusuf Adis Šito is one of the first fathers in BiH to use paternity leave. He was left alone with a 42-day-old baby, while his wife had to return to work. And those days spent with his daughter, he says, he wouldn’t trade for anything. Hear his experience here. The general director of the Kolektiv company, Mersiha Mima Mehić, also participated in the campaign, and spoke about the ways in which employers can encourage employees to use parental leave, and about the importance of creating an atmosphere that enables a balance between work and private life.

Part of the campaign is the Festival for Fathers, held on July 21 in Sarajevo, which included families, fathers, mothers and children with various activities aimed at motivating fathers to actively participate in the care of children, their upbringing, education and development such as: baby swaddling/changing, baby race/push race, pushchair race, quiz, and many others. Mravko Travko and his team also prepared performances for children, and the Teta Violeta company rewarded the participants with their products.

“SOC works in parallel to address the issue of maternity benefits for mothers and generally strengthening legal and social conditions for dignified motherhood, but this is not the only way to ensure a quality family and business life for women. There is no true gender equality until fathers have an adequate opportunity to participate in the care of children, and one of the initial conditions for ensuring those opportunities is to strengthen awareness at the level of society about the father’s role in raising a child and the fair redistribution of work between partners” said Emina Bošnjak, the executive director of SOC.

Precisely because of the high rate of the lack of information about legal possibilities and guaranteed rights, the organizers want to influence the public’s awareness that both parents, in accordance with mutual agreements, can use maternity/paternity leave, which brings many benefits – from strengthening the relationship with the partner, creating and strengthening the relationship with the child, to higher incomes in the household.

In the coming period, SOC and UNFPA will continue to advocate the flexibility of maternity/parental leave through labor laws, social protection and gender-responsive family public policies, in order to improve gender equality and the protection of rights related to parenthood, fatherhood and motherhood.