THE Bahamas National Breastfeeding Association (BNBA) is urging the government to ratify United Nations Convention 183, which would ensure the rights of breastfeeding mothers while on the job.
During a one-day seminar held on Wednesday, the association laid out some key points supporting the move. The event was held under the United Nations theme: ‘Step Up for Breastfeeding, Education and Support.’ In attendance and delivering remarks were the Director of Labour Robert Farquharson, who spoke on behalf of the Minister of Labour and Immigration Keith Bell, and Ann Marie Davis of the Office of the Spouse of the Prime Minister.
Mr Farquharson said that although the convention has yet to be ratified by the government, steps are being actively taken to include it in the Employment Act.
“We are recommending that statute law be amended to ensure that buildings have a special room so that nursing mothers have a place to breastfeed or pump for up to 12 months after the delivery of a child,” said Mr Farquharson. “We want to ensure that not only is it enacted by law but also reflected in the policy and procedures in government ministries. After additional consultations with partners and other stakeholders, we want to make some recommendations to the government to see how quickly the convention can be adopted in The Bahamas.”
Spouse of the Prime Minister, Mrs Davis said that she fully supports the move and encouraged efforts to move forward with getting the convention adopted by the government. She also encouraged women to breastfeed their infant children. Describing lactating mothers as “meals in heels,” Mrs Davis said that this is one of the best gifts a mother could give to her child.
“Breastfeeding is a vital source of nutrition and according to the United Nations, it contributes to over $3.2 billion of the world’s gross domestic product,” said Mrs Davis: “It fosters higher IQ levels, attaches to sustainability issues, and has minimal ecological footprint.”
She also said that more effort should be made to raise the number of breastfeeding mothers.
“We are in a battle to raise breastfeed mothers from 18 percent to 50 percent. It must be done collaboratively and cooperatively,” said Mrs Davis. “If we need a healthy nation, we need to go upward and forward, and we need sufficient support to be able to meet this objective.”
Chairperson of the National Tripartite Council, Cheryl Martin, also delivered brief remarks. She said that steps must be aggressively taken to pass laws to support breastfeeding in the workplace.
“Women face so many issues after returning from maternity leave: they have nowhere to express their milk, or have to resort to unsanitary conditions to do so. They need a safe place to store the milk once expressed, nurseries must be baby friendly, maternity leave should be extended to 20 weeks. We also need paternity leave for fathers and ongoing training and compensation for lactation managers,” said Ms Martin.
She also said that Convention 183 was passed by the International Labour Organisation since 2000 but, to date, has not been ratified by The Bahamas.