Friday May 23 2014

All offices should have breastfeeding spaces

By Editorial

News that Parliament has dedicated space for female MPs and staff to breastfeed is great and exposes defects in our gender policies at workplaces. Ugandans should applaud this small but significant step in promotion of exclusive breastfeeding for working mothers.

This increases chances of babies growing up healthier as health experts recommend optimal breastfeeding for at least six months. Likewise, the plan saves female MPs the inconvenience of pumping breast milk into bottles for their babies to drink when they are at work.

This new move must challenge other workplaces to adopt similar gender-sensitive policies and provide decent facilities for breastfeeding mothers. Like the female MPs and Parliament’s staff have been saved the discomfort of breastfeeding in vehicles and offices, so should all mothers in other workplaces. That is why the Ugandan taxpayers must not finance only female MPs and Parliament’s staff breastfeeding centre.

For this reason, those behind this initiative, including Kaberamaido Woman MP, Florence Ibi, and her Amuria counterpart, Ms Susan Amero, should champion the cause for all workplaces. Every working mother needs a breastfeeding centre.

But as it stands now, the crusade for a babies centre for only women MPs and Parliament’s women staff is downright selfish. The women MPs, each of whom earns about Shs21 million monthly, are not the most deserving of the taxpayers’ money on a babies’ centre when they can afford it.

Their move would have been better appreciated if the Uganda Women’s Parliamentary Association and the Parliament Commission had pushed for an urgent enforcement of the Uganda Gender Policy, 2007, to address breastfeeding centre gaps in all workplaces.

Sadly, for now, the Uganda Gender Policy, 2007 policy, will remain un-integrated into workplaces and its adoption left to the whims of managers. That is why it is urgent that the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development quickly takes up the task to oversee the enforcement and monitoring of the Gender Policy, 2007.

Nevertheless, as Workers MP Arinaitwe Rwakajara says, the breastfeeding centre improves productivity as it saves time, enhances concentration of women MPs and Parliament staff. Moreover, the breastfeeding centre grants them privacy, and enhances bonding with their babies.

Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and the women MPs should convince Parliament to support the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development to use their babies’ centre to set in motion an enforcement of gender-sensitive policies in all workplaces.
What is good for our women MPs is every bit good for all Uganda’s working mothers.