The influence women are enjoying during the presidency of Rodriguez Zapatero is not limited to a greater role in government. Whereas more women’s toilets had be built in the British Houses of Parliament to accommodate the arrival en-masse of women MPs following Blair’s first election victory, the new Spanish women MPs are going even further.
A special parliamentary committee, led by two women, has just approved a motion to set up a nursery within the grounds of the Spanish congress to provide childcare for the young children of people who work there.
The new nursery will open in 2006 with capacity for up to 50 babies and toddlers between 0 and 3 years old. The project has the support of all parliamentary groups except for IU, and all congress administrative staff and their trade union representatives. The cost of the nursery will be covered by Congress.
Another reform recently approved by the Spanish parliament enables women MPs to name a substitute during maternity leave.
All women in Spain are automatically given four months maternity leave with full-pay, which they can then extend depending on their professional circumstances, but without pay. Because the socialist party’s majority is so slight, votes of all members are essential in key reforms. Apparantly the motion to enable substitutes to participate in debates was introduced by two Socialist women MPs who had to attend Congress and vote on key debates during their official four-month maternity leave.