Health workers on an outreach campaign before the launch
THE UNITED Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Labour Commission (ILO) have called for the ratification of the ILO Convention 183 that calls for a minimum of 14 to 17 weeks of maternity leave and breastfeeding arrangement for working mothers.
The group also entreated the government to implement the Maternity Protection (MP) Convention 103 which spells out detailed guidance on national policy on maternity protection.
Ninety-nine percent of babies are breastfed in Ghana, however, only 52 are exclusively breastfed due to the entering of more women into the working force.
This has contributed to the reduction of exclusive breastfeeding rate from 63 percent in 2008 to 52 in 2014.
According to the group, if working mothers are given the enabling environment to breastfeed, it will not only prevent unequal treatment in employment due to women’s reproductive role but enable them to combine their reproductive and productive roles successfully.
The call for the push towards a more breastfeeding friendly environment for working mothers was made at the launch of the National Breastfeeding Week on the theme: ‘Breastfeeding And Work, Let’s Make It Work’.
Akua Ofori Asumado, technical advisor and maternal protection at ILO, speaking on behalf of the development partners, said, “Returning to work while still breastfeeding is even more of a challenge and it is one of the main reasons that women stop breastfeeding.” Ms Asumado pointed out that maternity protection is the sure way to ensure a healthy future as it has great benefits to both the mother and child.
Dr Gloria Quansah-Asare, Deputy Director of the Ghana Health Service, said breastfeeding has numerous benefits that can be achieved if mothers practise exclusive breastfeeding.
She said breastfeeding in the first two years of a child’s life can avert 12 percent of six million child deaths that are occurring each year.
She further observed that “not only does breastfeeding reduce risk of post-partum haemorrhage but decreases a woman’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer.”
Dr Quansah-Asare also said exclusive breastfeeding also increases a child’s intelligence, lifelong educational attainment and income.
Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Victor Bampoe, in his key note address said MP is fundamental human rights and that it is an essential component of gender equality.
He further said it helps to improve mother and child health and plays an important role in economic growth, poverty reduction and it is part and parcel of the decent work agenda.
He continued that MP contributes to the achievement of MDG1, MDG 3, MDG 4, MDG 5 and MDG 6 goals.
“I commend all who have started implementing some of the provisions of the ILO Convention 183, although it is yet to be ratified by government,” he emphasized.