Bosnia's fight over social benefits for new mothers 

New mothers in Bosnia have a different status and benefits depending on which part of the country they live in. This disparity only adds to the mountain of disadvantages they are already facing. 

Tijana Cvjeticanin
Tijana Cvjeticanin Istinomjer, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Source: Istinomjer
Bosnia's fight over social benefits for new mothers  - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

If you're a new mother in Bosnia, your location will determine what percentage of your salary will be guaranteed during maternity leave, how this amount will be calculated and whether you'll get anything at all. It will also be a decisive factor in what kind of benefits you can get if you're an unemployed mother, or mother-to-be. 

This is because social protection and healthcare are legislated at three different administrative levels -- entities, cantons and the Brčko District. In the Federation of BiH, each of the ten cantons adopts its own regulations, putting women from different cantons in very different positions when it comes to maternity rights.

Naša Stranka, a left-leaning political party in the FBiH parliament, has repeatedly asked for the entity's government to set up a fund which would provide for equal protection to expectant and new mothers regardless of where they live.

The latest attempt to pressure the ruling coalition was attempted during the budget debate, when a temporary solution was proposed; instead of raising salaries in the entire public sector, allocate the funds to maternity benefits so that women in all ten cantons get the same amount as those in Sarajevo, the country's capitol. 

The government flatly refused all the proposed amendments, including those meant to even out the differences in maternity benefits.

Details from the story:

  • Maternity benefits in FBiH, as it is, depend on both the legal approach each canton takes and the actual size of its budget.
  • Women living in poorer cantons -- where it's already harder to find a job and the risk of unemployment is higher -- are therefore bound to receive less benefits, which adds to their already disadvantageous position. 
  • In 2014, a Special Report on the Protection of Mothers and Maternity in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina was published by the Human Rights Ombudsman of BiH.
  • In the report, the fact that women receive different rights and benefits if they live in different cantons was deemed a violation of their human rights. 
  • A working group was consequently formed to tackle the issue, with no results yet.
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