“It is embarrassing that in the 21st century women should have to be expressing milk in washrooms and toilets.”
-Bob Collymore CEO,Safaricom
You know the event you are attending is going to be great and has been well planned for months when you are handed a sky blue media kit complete with a DVD by UNICEF .
I am entering the Michael Joseph Center and it looks resplendent in blue and white colors for the official launch of the breastfeeding week that is being celebrated in more than 17 countries across the world.
But first a thorough security check you are entering “Fort Knox”.
The Ministry of health together with relevant stake holders is launching Guidelines on Support for Working Mothers A first in Kenya and the theme for this year is Breastfeeding at Work,Lets make it Work.
The Chief Guest for the event is James Macharia,the Cabinet Secretary for Health but he sends Dr James Kioko in his place.
As usual we are a wee bit late in starting the event,but not to worry i get time to admire the baby piano and nice seats at the MJ center,i almost wish i could carry one or six with me .
We are first led on a tour of Safaricom”s Mothers room and creche,facilities that are a first for a Kenyan company to invest in for their female staff who are parents or plan to be in the near future.
As Mrs Marilyn Mbuthia the Head of HR Operations tells us,female staff at Safaricom get an extra one month of maternity leave in addition to the statutory 12 weeks the government recommends.
Mothers working here also enjoy flexible working hours and a medical insurance that covers all costs from pre- natal,post natal to delivery costs.
We got entertainment from a group of mothers called Diamond Mothers,who meet at St Teresa’s Catholic Church in Mathare,an informal settlement in Nairobi and their skit on the challenges and benefits of breastfeeding deserved an award.
One of the mothers from the group recounted her experience losing a child at 5 months because she had started giving him complementary foods at 1 month.There was in drop silence as she told her story in Swahili.
The CEO of Safaricom Bob Collymore gave a passionate appeal for corporates to see facilities like a mothers room as being the right thing to do.
Every company needs to support women who choose to breastfeed and it need not be an expensive venture like what they have done,a mothers room to express milk is enough.
While making the workplace a conducive environment for mothers has largely been led by the private sector will the public sector slow to follow ,it is a milestone to finally see the government launch guidelines on making the workplace a more family and child friendly environment.
Who knows,we may just see a creche at parliament .