Breastfeeding is everybody’s business!

After their birth, children need adequate nutrition to ensure their harmonious development.

Breastmilk is the best food for babies during its first days on Earth, even more so because it contributes to reinforcing their immunity system, provides them with water and all the right nutrients, ensures their cognitive and sensory development, enables their brain and nervous system to develop harmoniously, and protects them from diarrheal illnesses.

Furthermore, breastmilk cannot be replaced by any substitute because, in addition to the above-mentioned benefits, it reinforces emotional bonding between mother and child which, in turn, actively contributes to the child’s psychological well-being.

Nonetheless, not all children benefit from this vitally rich food. Indeed, according to the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS 2014), while approximately 1 out of 2 children (48%) enjoy the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding throughout the whole country, this figure stands at only 1.8% for children in DRC’s Bandundu Province!

These figures can be explained through a range of factors, including the terms that certain employers set out for working mothers who choose to breastfeed their children. Another factor lies within employment conditions which prevent working mothers from exclusively breastfeeding their children, leading them to go to arm’s length for the good of their family, but often to the detriment of their children’s diet.

Les mamans travailleuses lors d ela conférence-débat qui s'est tenue lors de la cérémonie de lancement officielle de la Semaine Mondiale de l'Allaitement Maternel

Working mothers at the conference-debate that took place during the official launch of World Breastfeeding Day in Bandundu Province

Sophie is one of those women who are in this situation. She works for a public institution and has a 4 month-old son.

He is my second child and I try my best to respect exclusive breastfeeding because my first child fell ill when he was 3 months and had digestive problems due to my having to sometimes feed him mushed food seeing as I had to leave the house to help the family survive.

I must admit, it isn’t easy, but my husband helps me a lot. I have been back at work for over a month now. I bring my son to work but conditions really aren’t appropriate, but I don’t know how else I can manage!”

 

Various legal provisions that encourage breastfeeding for working mothers are in force in our country:

 Article 10 of the Convention on the Protection of Motherhood;
 Article 132 of the Employment Code;
 Article 24, paragraph 2, point c) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Each of these elements was the subject of debates and discussions at an international level in light of World Breastfeeding Week 2015 the theme of which was set as the reconciliation between employment and breastfeeding.

In other words, what can we do to make professional spheres more prone to breastfeeding?

In DRC’s Bandundu Province, World Breastfeeding Week 2015 was launched on Tuesday 11 August by the Provincial Minister for Interior and Gender who was representing the Provincial Governor.

Further to several speeches encouraging breastfeeding in working environments, the Provincial Minister of Health declared, in his speech, that breastmilk was indispensable.

But despite significant progress and clear willingness on the part of the authorities towards exclusive breastfeeding, a lot remains to be accomplished. The Minister concluded his speech by reminding the audience that “working and breastfeeding are possible”.

Over the course of the conference-debate that followed the official launch, several strategies were submitted with the aim of supporting, maximising and improving breastfeeding conditions, including allocated duration, in professional environments:

The extension of maternity leave from 14 weeks to 6 months to allow newborns to be exclusively breastfed in accordance with World Health Organisation indications;
Maintain the existing two 30-minute breaks for mothers to breastfeed their children in light of Article 132 of the Congolese Employment Code;
○ In order to prevent mothers from wasting time going home, it would be preferable to convert working space for breastfeeding;
○ Ensure that company employees are adequately paid so as to respect mothers’ maternity leave.

It is true that it isn’t always easy to combine exclusive breastfeeding with professional requirements, but support from employers and work colleagues can make all the difference and, thanks to their positive attitude towards breastfeeding, they help guarantee children’s full enjoyment of their rights.

Photo: © UNICEF RDC/2005/Giacomo Pirozzi

Translated from French by Eleanor Hac

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Deo

Déo Deo a 17 ans, il est enfant reporter et finaliste au collège Kivuvu à Bandundu. Il a représenté les enfants de la RDC au Forum de l'espoir des enfants à Bujumbura en juin 2014. Il fut élu ambassadeur du Forum de l'espoir et a représenté les enfants de la Région des grands Lacs au sommet Spécial de la CIRGL sur l'emploi des jeunes. Pour lui, être enfant Reporter est une opportunité qui lui permet de plaider pour l'amélioration de la situation des enfants de sa communauté

Déo is 17 years old, he is a Young Reporter and a student in final year in KIVUVU High School in Bandundu. Deo has represented Congolese childre at the Forum of Hope in Bujumbura in 2014. He was elected as an Amabassador of Hope and represented children from the Great Lakes region at the Special ICGLR Summit on Youth Employment. For him, being a child reporter gives him an opportunity to advocate on improving the situation on children in his community.

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