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Women from the Dpt. of Labour, Health, Social Development, Universities and Civil Society discussed ways workplaces can be more supportive to new moms.


In South Africa, there are a number of civil society organisations (CSOs), institutions and individuals working within child, adolescent and maternal and women’s health who have the potential to positively influence policies and programs to address Reproductive, Maternal, Neonatal, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH) and to raise awareness amongst key target audiences, including the community.

For this reason, a CSO coalition was formed in 2015 called the South African Civil Society for Women’s Adolescent, Child and Women’s Health (SACSoWACH). SACSoWACH has a very important function, to strengthen the link with government and the community, to mobilise the community to increase demand for essential services they are entitled to, and to enforce the accountability of the Department of Health in its commitment to improving access to quality reproductive healthcare. These actions are essential for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2016 onwards.

The South African Civil Society for Women’s Adolescents’ and Children’s Health (SACSoWACH) hosted a roundtable discussion to encourage better implementation of the Code of Good Practice for breastfeeding in the workplace, in an effort to create enabling environments for breastfeeding in the workplace.

The event comes after a recent discovery that while women constitute close to half of the South African workforce (44%), the vast majority do not receive adequate maternity protection, support or facilities to promote breastfeeding.*

Held at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in Pretoria, the event included panellists from the Departments of Labour, Health, Social Development, Universities, Civil Society organisations and the Private Sector. Here, the panel and attendees discussed the importance of breastfeeding in support of children’s health development and to ensure sustainable social and economic development and the very real difficulties that women face in the workplace every day. Practical and easy ways for employers to better support breastfeeding mothers were also explored.

Opening proceedings Professor Linda Richter highlighted that if breastfeeding had been invented today, it would receive a Nobel Peace Prize, as an economic and development imperative.

“Breastfeeding plays a significant role in contributing to the optimal health and development of a child”  said Sue Jones, Chairman of SACSoWACH, in her welcome address, on behalf of Dr Tshepo Motsepe.

“It also contributes to securing and equalising their right to develop to their full potential. Because of the critical link between breastfeeding and health and child development, support for breastfeeding is of the utmost national development importance and achieving many of our sustainable development goals – not just health-related, but our social and economic goals too,” she continued.

“We need to see leadership in government declare breastfeeding as a valuable objective,” says Patricia Martin-Wiesner, senior policy analyst at the Centre of Excellence in Human Development. “Breastfeeding must become the business of business, and a key part of this lies in the bridging of the gap between the corporate sector and the development sector,” she continues.

The Code of Good Practice states that mothers with children younger than 6-months are, by law, entitled to at least two 30-minute breastfeeding breaks a day; over and above their lunch break. However, this code is not always implemented correctly and returning to work becomes a barrier to breastfeeding because many mothers struggle to balance breastfeeding and work, and stop breastfeeding earlier than recommended.

“Breastfeeding is not only beneficial to babies, but to workplaces as well. Recent studies indicate that by supporting breastfeeding mothers, employers improve staff loyalty and maintain high staff retention rates,” said Jones.

“The children of today are South Africa’s future, and we need to ensure that they have every chance of survival,” she concluded.

To find out how you can make your workplace conducive for employees who wish to continue breastfeeding, please visit sacsowach.org or e-mail secretariat@sacsowach.org

Sources: Supplied
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Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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