WBW: UNICEF urges Nigeria to implement family-friendly workplace policies
*As Bauchi Mulls Policy To Mandate MDAs, Organizations To Create Breast-Feeding Spaces For Lactating Mothers
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), has urged the Nigerian government to put in place Family-friendly workplace policies such as paid maternity leave, breastfeeding breaks, and a room where mothers can breastfeed or extract milk to enable working mothers effectively breastfeed their babies within the need period.
According to UNICEF, these approaches would generate economic returns by reducing maternity-related absenteeism, increasing the retention of female workers, and reducing the costs of hiring and training new staff.
UNICEF Chief of Field Office, Bauchi, Dr. Tushar Rane, who made the call at the 2023 World Week Media Dialogue with the theme, Enabling Breastfeeding: Making a Difference for Working Parents, packaged by the organization Wednesday, stressed the need to promote policies that encourage breastfeeding such as paid maternity leave for six months as well as paid paternity leave, flexible return-to-work options, regular lactation breaks during working hours and adequate facilities that enable mothers to continue exclusive breastfeeding for six months.
Dr Rane added that when working parents and caregivers have sufficient paid leave, they can meet the essential nutritional needs of their young children.
Rane who stated that only nine per cent of organizations in Nigeria has a workplace breastfeeding policy, with only 1.5 per cent in the public sector, observed that women in the informal sector have nearly no support for breastfeeding.
According to him, the government and employers must provide the needed assistance for mothers and caregivers including those in the informal sector or on temporary contracts to conveniently breastfeed or support breastfeeding.
He said: “This year’s WBW brings attention to workplace breastfeeding. Women make up 20 million out of the 46 million workforce in Nigeria; 95 per cent are within the informal sector while the formal sector only employs five per cent.
“Shockingly, only nine per cent of organizations have a workplace breastfeeding policy, with only 1.5 per cent in the public sector. Women in the informal sector have nearly no support for breastfeeding. Workplaces challenges to breastfeeding are one of the primary factors responsible for early cessation of breastfeeding.
“Women require sufficient time and support to breastfeed successfully. For working mothers, juggling between tasks and breastfeeding may be nearly often impossible.”
Also speaking, the Chairman, of the House Committee on Health, Bauchi State House of Assembly, Hon Lawal Dauda, explained that the State has an existing law for maternity leave which is three months for breastfeeding mothers but wants to review the law to make it six months as was approved by the federal government.
Dauda noted that the State Assembly was waiting for a draft bill from the executive arm, which will later be subjected to a public hearing to get the opinions of all stakeholders, traditional leaders and MDAs before the law is passed into law by the state house of Assembly.
He observed that the State Primary Healthcare Development Agency was advocating that all the MDAs create a breastfeeding space and enabling environment for breastfeeding mothers to breastfeed their children effectively and that once the law gets to the floor of the House, it would be given a speedy passage
Earlier, the Executive Director, of Bauchi State Primary Healthcare Development Agency (BSOHCDA), Dr Rilwanu Mohammed, said that the State Governor, Bala Mohammed, has agreed to support the creation of an enabling environment for breastfeeding and working-class mothers, adding that the state will soon come up with a policy that will mandate every MDA as well as private organizations in the state to create breastfeeding space to enable working mothers effectively breastfeed their children.
Mohammed noted that Bauchi State has about 22 per cent breastfeeding coverage while Nigeria’s breastfeeding rate was about 29 per cent which was very low. Hence, the need to create enabling laws to encourage pregnant mothers to breastfeed their babies.
He said: “Some states like Kaduna and Lagos have already created a law to enable exclusive breastfeeding and maternity leave for six months.
“They also created an enabling environment for the mother to work and as such, we are happy because they involved the Head of Service of their states to make sure that all the parastatals under government and the private, create that enabling environment for mothers to breastfeed in privacy. They have also reduced the work hours from 1 pm to 4 pm to enable women to breastfeed”.
“They created the father’s leave, two weeks, to enable him to support his wife. It is also another thing in the pipeline in Bauchi here; it involves all the stakeholders, the Ministry of Justice and the State Assembly, including the media organizations, and the religious ad traditional leaders, who will look at the implications of the law.
“We realized that there is no stigma around that law. So, UNICEF is committed to supporting the creation of enabling environment for the stakeholders to come and look at the law review from Lagos and Kaduna States so that we can adopt it.
“We want to look at every aspect of the law to create an enabling environment and flexible hours including the six months maternity leave. These are the things that we want; that is the reason we are going to look at it critically”, he added.
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