SCW highlights measures supporting women during COVID-19 pandemic.

Manama: Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Women (SCW) Hala Al Ansari has affirmed that the noble directives and woman-related decisions Bahrain witnessed recently reflected anew the kingdom’s status as an advanced and civilised country supporting women and further engaging them in the national efforts to combat coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact on the community and economy.

Al Ansari pointed out that the SCW, under the presidency of Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, Wife of His Majesty the King, is monitoring the positive impact of those directives and decisions on Bahraini women and family stability. She pointed out that while many countries had faced big challenges, Bahrain remained immune of that thanks to determination and support of citizens and institutions during the pandemic, on one hand, and the laws, decisions and procedures taken, on the other hand.

The SCW Secretary General indicated that the council will continue following up closely on the needs of Bahraini women in light of developments caused by the pandemic. She also stressed the council’s resolve to maintain cooperation with all relevant parties, in light of the national empowerment plan, to further boost the potentials of Bahraini women and enhance their capability to strike a balance between work and family demands in order to further promote family stability and boost welfare.

The Kingdom of Bahrain has witnessed the issuance of quality decisions that support gender balance while taking into account the situation of women in light of the new conditions caused by the pandemic. This has positively reflected on the sustainability of women’s performance of their family and professional responsibilities, facilitating their access to health services, enhancing their psychological stability and coexistence with the new situation and maintaining family and social stability.

On March 21, with the emerging repercussions of COVID-19 pandemic, and on the occasion of the Mother’s Day, His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa instructed the government authorities to implement the work-from-home system for working mothers at ministries, government agencies and institutions. He directed the competent authorities to regulate that to ensure working mothers continue performing their vital responsibilities, especially in the health and security sectors, in order to serve the nation and its people.

As a matter of fact, a number of directives were issued to the civil service on the implementation of the work-from-home policy. Besides, the Civil Service Bureau and the Supreme Council for Women announced the formation of a joint committee to follow up the implementation of the new system for working mothers in government ministries, agencies and institutions.

On April 2, the Executive Committee, headed by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister, directed the public sector institutions to expand the application of the work-from-home system whenever possible. This included, in particular, employees working in the sector, spouses of female employees who work on the front lines in facing COVID-19 virus, so that their husbands are given priority to work from home. The measures aim to achieve utmost social and economic stability in light of the huge responsibilities undertaken by the frontline professionals to maintain health security for all people.

A Cabinet decision was also issued regarding the payment of salaries for female workers in kindergartens and nurseries, who are not insured in the General Authority for Social Insurance, in order to contribute to minimizing the repercussions of the pandemic on working women in all professional fields.
During another meeting of the Executive Committee on August 25, 2020, which was chaired by His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, a number of initiatives supporting the advancement of Bahraini women were discussed, based on the recommendation of the SCW regarding joint cooperation with the Ministry of Finance and National Economy. A line-up of quality decisions were taken by governmental institutions to ensure women’s sustainable contribution and integration of their needs in the labour market.

The Ministry of Labour and Social Development issued three decisions to promote equality between women and men at work, including affirming the prohibition of wage discrimination between male and female workers who take up the same job whenever their working conditions are the same, permitting women to work in all industries without restricting the nature of the field and a decision dealing with the employment of women in occupations with night shifts in all jobs that workers may work in, all of which are consistent with the Labour Law in the private sector promulgated by law 36/2012.

On the other hand, and in the context of implementing the directives of the Executive Committee, a decision was also issued by the General Authority for Social Insurance, which states that “All leaves stipulated in the Labour Law in the private sector shall be counted within the subscription periods subject to the provisions of the Social Insurance Law, including paid leave or leave without payment that a working woman receives in connection with childbirth or that a working woman deserves to care for her child.”

Among the important decisions adopted by the Executive Committee was the directive to issue a circular by the Central Bank of Bahrain to institutions licensed to provide financial services subject to the supervision of bank, prohibiting any discrimination in obtaining banking and financial services based on gender, nationality, origin, language, creed or religion, physical disability, or social status.

Among the directives are also those of Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, Wife of His Majesty the King and President of the Supreme Council for Women, to pay off debts and sums of money owed by Bahraini women against whom judicial rulings have been issued and who are on the lists published by the Ministry of Interior.