Respect women! We have a God-given role to nurse babies

Thursday, August 8th, 2019 00:00 |
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden is the first female world leader to bring her baby, three-month-old Neve Te Aroha, to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Enough is enough! That’s what women in this country are saying. Going by the events in Parliament yesterday morning, speaking up on issues affecting women is no longer an option. 

To start with, there is absolutely nothing abnormal with a woman carrying out her gender roles, which among other things includes caring for her children. 

This unfortunate incident comes in the backdrop of a motion passed in 2013, directing the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) to set aside a room within Parliament Buildings for breastfeeding mothers. Six years later, the file is still gathering dust. 

Subsequently, in 2016, Parliament passed the Matrimonial Property and Sexual Offences Bill, which approved the breastfeeding clause in the Health Bill, 2015. Three years later, President Uhuru Kenyatta is yet to assent to the Bill. 

Under the provision, employers would be compelled to set up lactating rooms or crèches with all the necessary facilities, including electric outlets for breast pumps, refrigerators and appropriate cooling facilities within the office premises. 

Ironically, before going on Christmas recess last year, the MPs complained about poor infrastructure and hospitality facilities not worth their honourable stature. And voilà, in February this year, they came back to state-of-the-art lounge complete with gypsum ceiling and comfortable seats with a dining area.

Yesterday’s barbaric incident elicits a mix of emotions on the rights of women and by extension career women in their reproductive years. This being World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7), it is a shame that an honourable female Member of Parliament can be ejected from the chambers for tagging along her baby to enable her to carry out her leadership duties. Therefore, the requirement for six months exclusive breastfeeding is simply a mockery!

Secondly, the women of this country demand an apology from National Assembly Leader of Majority Aden Duale for the snide remarks he made towards Kwale Woman Rep Zulekha Hassan and her baby. 

Kenya must borrow a leaf from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who not only attends Parliament with her baby, but attended the United Nations General Assembly with her, sending a powerful message about women in leadership roles and about parents in the workplace.

In the words of Laikipia North MP: “for a very long time women have been subjected to choosing their careers over their babies, of choosing their babies over their careers. We are saying enough is enough. We will progress with our careers, we will progress with our motherhood duties and we will do it to perfection.” 

Globally, just five per cent of world leaders are women and they remain grossly underrepresented in senior potions in politics, business and media. Out of these, only a fraction are in their childbearing age. 

Surely, there cannot be a justification why governments and organisations cannot allocate funds to create crèches and lactating rooms for mothers at places of work. The writer is a senior sub editor at People Daily. —[email protected]

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