Employers Lobbied for breastfeeding-friendly workplaces

Kenya has joined the rest of the world in marking World Breastfeeding Week, which is held every year from 1st to 7th August to advocate for exclusive breastfeeding of infants.  This year’s theme – “Breastfeeding and Work, Let’s Make it Work!” – calls for concerted global action to enable women to combine breastfeeding and work in the workplace.

Speaking when he presided over the launch of the awareness campaign at Safaricom’s Michael Joseph Centre, Hon. James W. Macharia, Cabinet Secretary for Health, urged employers to establish breastfeeding-friendly workplaces.

“Breastfeeding is vital to the growth and health of our babies and is thereby the very foundation of a healthy and productive Kenya and key to achieving our Vision 2030,” declared the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Health. “The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that children feed exclusively on breast milk for the first six months of their lives, so whether a woman is working in the formal, non-formal or home setting, it is necessary that she is empowered to claim her and her baby’s right to breastfeed.”

The Ministry of Health has partnered with several organisations to lead the campaign, including UNICEF, WHO, Safaricom, Kenya Women Finance Trust, National Bank, International Medical Corps and Kenya Red Cross among others

“Combining breastfeeding and work is possible. It is the responsibility of all of us to make this happen everywhere. Today, the Government joins hands with businesses and organizations, big and small, to call for dedicated time, space and support to be provided within all workplaces for breastfeeding women,” stated Mrs. Gladys Mugambi, Head of the Nutrition and Dietetics Unit, Ministry of Health ahead of the launch.

Efforts to promote exclusive breastfeeding for children younger than six months of age have resulted in remarkable gains in infant nutrition, with the number of women feeding their infants exclusively on breast milk rising from 32% in 2008 to 61% in 2014, according to the latest Kenya Demographic and Health Survey.

This year the Ministry of Health, together with partners, is working towards securing multi-dimensional support from all sectors to enable women everywhere to combine work and breastfeeding.

“Under-nutrition in children under the age of five years is a health, social and development problem that needs to be addressed through collaboration and revision of policies guiding breastfeeding in the workplace,” said Bob Collymore Safaricom CEO during the event, adding: “Safaricom has taken steps to ensure that the needs of new mothers in the workplace are met. From increasing maternity leave from the standard three months to four months, to providing facilities and benefits that allow women who return to work after their maternity leave to continue to breastfeed exclusively and thrive in the workplace.”

During World Breastfeeding Week the Ministry of Health will be raising public awareness on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding, as well as launching guidelines to help employers, families and communities to support mothers to breastfeed.