KOSRAE STATE, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) - Law No. 12-286 was “re-passed in the Legislature, Twenty-Second Special Session, 2022, by four-fifths of the members of the Twelfth Kosrae State legislature” on 5 April 2022.

The Law allows for paid maternity leave of up to 90 days to be applied to all female state government employees, regardless of employment status or contractual arrangements. 

“This Law is the fruit of the partnership and dialogue with grassroots organizations such as Utwe Women’s Organization”  - Andy J. Andrew, Senator

The Law, addressing public sector employees, paves the way for the adoption of similar measures for private sector employees. Advocates hope it will lead to similar conversations in other FSM states. 

“This Law is the fruit of the partnership and dialogue with grassroots organizations such as Utwe Women’s Organization.” said Senator Andy J. Andrew, who formally introduced the Law. “They are playing a crucial role in voicing the needs and rights of women and children, and in reminding us legislators of our duties in developing laws that promote and secure the right to health for all,” he concluded. 

While the bottom-up approach is advancing the rights of women, it is society as a whole who is reaping the benefits of the advancement of human rights.” - Yamado Melander, Senator

Senator Yamado Melander, Chairman, R&D Committee 12th Kosrae State Legislature said: “Utwe Women’s Organization advocated for women’s rights to paid leave because no one else was doing it on their behalf, and they were the ones paying the consequences of such negligence. While the bottom-up approach is advancing the rights of women, it is society as a whole who is reaping the benefits of the advancement of human rights.”

Krystle Melander, project manager for Utwe Women’s Organization, the booster that allowed this amendment to take off, added, “What we are protecting and promoting with this Law is the right of women and children to physical and mental health. Unpaid maternity leave meant no safety net for new mothers. Many working mothers felt worried when transitioning from childbirth to the workplace with no care and recovery time, adding financial pressure to an already sensitive time.”

"What we are protecting and promoting with this Law is the right of women and children to physical and mental health. Unpaid maternity leave meant no safety net for new mothers, adding financial pressure to an already sensitive time” - Krystle Melander, Utwe Women’s Organization

“In the old days, during pregnancy women were supported by the community and exempted from working, creating the time and space for the new mother and the newborn to adjust and recover,” said Shelyane Lohn, North Pacific PPAC Officer, Pacific Community (SPC). “With this Law and paid maternity leave, we are formally recognizing the collective responsibility of taking care of mothers and children."

Utwe women's organisation wearing a t-shirt produced for the campaign "Maternity leave for all women"© Utwe women's organisation, Kosrae
Utwe women's organization wearing a t-shirt produced for the campaign "Maternity leave for all women" © Utwe women's organization, Kosrae

The Government of the Federated States of Micronesia has prioritized six indicators to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls (SDG Goal 5). The hope with this Law in Kosrae is that it will have a spillover effect in neighbouring states so that all women and newborns are equally protected and can have access to a secure time of rest, leaving no one behind. 

The Spotlight Initiative is a global initiative of the United Nations which has received generous support from the European Union. It supported Utwe Women’s Organization in advocating for women's rights.

By Cristina Comunian