Lack of Convenient Facilities For Working Mothers Has Long-Term Effects

By Ange Iliza

pregnant black woman

When a woman gives birth in Rwanda, she is entitled to a three-month maternity leave that may include pre and post-partum leave.

After three months, when she returns to work, she is allowed to take one hour among the working hours to check on and breastfeed her baby, as stipulated by the Law establishing and governing maternity leave and benefits scheme.

In most cases, mothers have to work until their due date, to spare more time to look after their babies once they are born. For fathers, they are given four days as paternity leave.

The World Health Organisation and UNICEF strongly recommend that children be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life – meaning no other foods or liquids are provided, including water.

Given that most working conditions do not facilitate working mothers to exclusively breastfeed for six months, some women are compelled to choose between their careers and their babies or put their babies on alternative meals too early.

Isabelle Sindayirwanya has recently started working as a Marketing Manager in a locally based company. When she had her third baby, she could not manage the workload that required her to work on field oftentimes, so she quit.

She told The New Times that her case is not particular to her because working conditions for breastfeeding mothers are not very conducive.

“Breastfeeding is not just about time and place, it is also about the mood and calmness of the mother. There are some jobs that need a calm room where a mother feel comfortable enough to breastfeed or pump the milk. Many companies do not have that,” she said.

She added that the problem is even more pressing when it comes to facilities such as breast milk pumps which are expensive and cannot be covered by health insurance companies.

Investing in creating a facilitative workplace for women does not have a return on investment for companies which makes it hard for profit-oriented institutions to facilitate them. This is in addition to the chauvinistic mindset held by some employers.

Is the investment worth it?

The New Times interviewed Dr Aflodis Kagaba, Executive Director of Health Development Initiative, a local NGO that seeks to improve health quality among Rwandans, on what companies and institutions would be losing or earning if they invested in conducive incentives for working mothers.

Kagaba thinks that the issue does not concern only private companies but all policymakers because the impacts are large-scale.

“Breastfeeding is not just an important practice for both the mother and the kid. It affects the brain and the capacity of the child for a lifetime. If we want a healthy workforce in the future, we should start with helping mothers,” he said.

He emphasized that ignoring such problems will yield more impacts in the future because early childhood development process is ruined.

“Besides, all employees need to feel equally comfortable in their workplace, including mothers,” he added.

Kagaba also added that there is a need to educate fathers and the public at large on men’s contribution to taking care of children from birth upwards.

He recommended that one of the solutions would be educating the public and involving policymakers to take action.

Source: New Times

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