The USAID-funded Breakthrough Action-Nigeria has raised an advocacy to the Ebonyi State Government to evolve a law that would guarantee at least 18 weeks paid leave to lactating mothers in civil and public service.
The Ebonyi State Nutrition Focal Person for Breakthrough Action-Nigeria, Clinton Ofoegbu, made this known.
Ofoegbu spoke during a news briefing to mark the 2023 Breastfeeding Week.
The World Breastfeeding Week is observed from August 1 to 7 annually.
The briefing was held on Wednesday in the Ebonyi State Governor’s Wife’s Office, Centenary City, Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital.
The Governor’s Wife, represented at the briefing by her Personal Assistant, Jessica Uburu, expressed the readiness of her office to support the campaign for mothers to adopt positive breastfeeding behaviours.
Ofoegbu, while elaborating on the roles of USAID-BA-N, said the organisation was engaged in creating social behaviour change through effective health Communication in the areas of maternal/child health, malaria, family planning and nutrition among others.
He noted that the absence of operative policy to protect lactating mothers in work spaces often take negative toll on the campaign for six months exclusive breastfeeding for adequate Baby nutrition.
The nutrition expert expressed hope that the State government would leverage on the weeklong breastfeeding activity to set machineries in motion towards addressing such policy gap affecting working mothers.
Ofoegbu noted: “The sweetest part that will be the overall achievement for me at the end of this weeklong event is going to be having to hear that commitment, especially from His Excellency, the Commissioners and other policy makers as to how we can actually change the current narrative when it comes to working condition of breastfeeding mothers at the work spaces.
“As at now, our policy does not support that six months maternity leave.
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“So, I am hoping to get a form of commitment from the Commissioner and your Excellency as to say that from this event, we are going back to have another meeting with partners and stakeholders and to look into the current policy that the government is working with in Ebonyi State, and see how we can revamp it, enhance it, and include at least, between 18 weeks to 6 months paid maternity leave for lactating mothers.”
Ofoegbu also advocated for some months paternal leave for working fathers to enable them assist their wife achieve desired results from six months exclusive breastfeeding, in line with the recommendations of the World Health Organisation.
He further made a case for the establishment of baby care facilities such as creche in work places to offer mothers the needed close environment with their suckling babies.
Others who spoke at the event, including the Commissioners for Health and Women Affairs, Dr. Moses Ekuma and Felicia Nwamkpuma respectively, gave insights on this year’s theme: “Enabling Breastfeeding – Making a Difference for working parents.”
While Ekuma emphasised that legislating for at least six months paid maternity leave would encourage exclusive breast feeding for working mothers, Nwamkpuma said the meeting has enlightened her as well as provided her with resources to engage the women during activities of her ministry.
Meanwhile, the briefing was immediately followed by a ceremony to officially declare open activities for the World Breastfeeding Week.
The event, held at the Azuiyiokwu Mother and Child Health Centre, Abakaliki, was performed by Governor Francis Nwifuru’s wife, Uzoamaka.
Speaking, the Governor’s wife urged traditional rulers, religious leaders and other stakeholders to join hands in spreading the message of effective breastfeeding in their domains.
While educating lactating mothers on the gains of breastfeeding, the head, Baby Friendly unit of the State Ministry of Health, Ngozi Nkama, emphasised that breast milk has all required nutrients for mental, physical and the overall development of infants and new born.
Nkama added that the bonding achieved between mother and child through breastfeeding is psychologically beneficial to both parties, and appealed for the Governor’s wife’s support to take the campaign to the hinterlands.