Mahjabeen Sheran, a member of the Provincial Assembly of Balochistan in Pakistan, who was asked to leave for bringing her unwell infant to the house, has vowed to campaign for establishing daycare centres in assemblies and government departments.
On April 29, Sheran was criticised by staff and fellow members of the assembly for bringing her seven-month-old son, who was sick and could not be left at home, to the chamber for a session. She was asked to leave the session.
“I was torn between attending the session and staying home taking care of my son,” Sheran told Al Jazeera.
“So, I decided to bring my son because I didn’t want to miss the session.”
Sheran is from Balochistan’s Kech district and became a member of the assembly in 2018 on a reserved seat for women. She said it was the “worst” situation for her when she had to decide between taking care of her son and attending work.
“I felt embarrassed because some men in the session were making jokes and smirking about me bringing my son. At that point, I looked for someone to stand up for me and support me, but no one did,” she said.
Several times in the past, Sheran had requested the assembly’s secretary for a spare room to turn it into a daycare facility. Her request was denied repeatedly.
The legislator is now seeking support from political leaders and activists to establish daycare facilities in government offices and assemblies.
She said she will also propose a bill to allow mothers to bring babies to the assemblies and “to share the experiences of working mothers with men”.
A daycare centre was inaugurated in Parliament House in Pakistan’s capital city Islamabad two years ago.
“How can a country succeed when the most important part of the society [women] are treated this way? Such incidents discourage women of this country from succeeding and being independent,” Mumtaz Mughal, the regional director of Aurat Foundation, a non-profit organisation that works on women’s rights and gender equality, told Al Jazeera.
“The fact that Mahjabeen Sheran was asked to leave for merely bringing her son to the session tells us that the patriarchal mindset exists heavily in our society and we have a lot of work to do in order to change that.”
Sheran said she has seen women lawyers, activists and politicians taking their children to work if they have to. She said she was disappointed to know that bringing children to the assembly in Pakistan was against the law.
In a similar case as Sheran’s, a Japanese politician, Yuka Ogata – a member of the Kumamoto City Assembly, was criticised by fellow members for trying to bring her baby to a council session. She said in her statement that she wanted to show the difficulties when women juggle with careers and raising children.
are treated this way?”]
Mette Abildgaard, a Danish MP, was asked to leave parliament after she brought her baby to the chamber in March this year.
In 2018, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made history by attending the United Nations General Assembly accompanied by her newly-born baby.
Australian Senator Larissa Water became the first politician to breastfeed her two-month-old daughter during a vote in the country’s parliament in 2017.
An Argentinian politician, Victoria Donda Perez, was praised for breastfeeding her infant daughter during a parliamentary session in 2015.
Back in Pakistan, Sheran’s case went viral on social media, receiving support from people from across the country.
“People from all over the country were contacting me expressing their support for me and my campaign,” she said.
“We must respect those women who work and also take care of their household. It is not easy and we face challenges on daily basis.”