Event highlights private sector’s role in supporting breastfeeding in Nigeria
AN ALIVE AND TRIVE SUCCESS STORY
On August 3, Alive & Thrive partnered with the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association’s Network of Entrepreneurial Women (NNEW) to honor three Lagos-based companies at a World Breastfeeding Week event celebrating private sector initiatives to support breastfeeding employees.
The Private Sector Commemoration of World Breastfeeding Week and Advocacy in Support of Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition recognized MTN Nigeria Communications PLC, Access Bank PLC and UAC Nigeria for adopting policies to promote breastfeeding, including paid maternity leave, paternity leave, day care centers and anti-discriminatory policies for pregnant women and lactating mothers. Representatives from about a dozen companies and private sector organizations, the federal Ministry of Health, local health agencies and other organizations attended the event.
“We come together not only to celebrate the power of nurturing through breastfeeding but also to acknowledge the pivotal role it plays in creating a healthier, more supportive workplace environment,” said Funmilayo Arowoogun, NNEW’s president. She noted that with support from Alive & Thrive, NNEW piloted two day care centers, one at the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association’s main office and the other at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, so other employers could see them in action. Arowoogun said the pilot day care centers helped persuade other employers to follow suit.
A 2019 study by Alive & Thrive, the Ministry of Health and UNICEF highlighted the critical role the private sector plays in protecting and supporting breastfeeding among working mothers in Nigeria.
Victor Ogbodo, director of Alive & Thrive’s Nigeria country program, said that with more than 25 million women working in Nigeria’s private sector, it is essential to create an enabling environment for women to succeed in their careers without sacrificing for the ability to breastfeed their children. “Events like this are important because they show that baby-friendly workplaces are possible to implement,” he said. He noted that Alive & Thrive developed a toolkit, the Workplace Breastfeeding and Lactation Support Programme, to help private companies and other employers set up workplace lactation programs for their employees.
During a panel discussion at the event, company representatives shared the personal and organizational benefits they have experienced from enacting breastfeeding-friendly policies. UAC Nigeria’s Ayomipo Wey explained how the company’s breastfeeding policies help attract the best talent and limit employee turnover. This means staff can do their best work, which improves profitability, she added. Folarin Adekola from MTN Nigeria Communications said the day care at his workplace helped him support his wife while she was breastfeeding. He could bring their child and bottles of her expressed breastmilk to the day care so his wife could focus on her job and grow in her career.
According to the Ministry of Health, only 9 percent of employers currently have policies that protect breastfeeding. “The experiences shared today are evidence that these policies are a win-win for employers,” Alive & Thrive’s Ogbodo said. “It is my hope that more private sector organizations will adopt these policies and see them as a direct investment in human capital for the country.”