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Advocacy for Nursing Mothers: Katsina First Lady and UNICEF Call for Stronger Workplace Policies

Katsina First Lady, Hajiya Zulaihat Dikko Radda, along with the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), has strongly denounced the alarming revelation that only a mere nine percent of organizations in the country possess workplace breastfeeding policies. The collaboration aims to eradicate this issue within Katsina State.

Speaking at the commencement of the 2023 World Breastfeeding Week in Katsina, Mrs. Radda urged the Katsina State Government and private entities within the state to establish comprehensive workplace support systems for nursing mothers. She advocated for a minimum of four months of fully paid maternity leave for nursing mothers in the state.

Mrs. Radda pointed out that the early return to work following childbirth is a significant contributor to breastfeeding challenges in the state. She also identified insufficient knowledge and unfavorable social norms as key obstacles.

In response, the Katsina First Lady called upon all Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) and community leaders to ensure that women are actively integrated into efforts to create breastfeeding-friendly communities and workplaces.

Quoting Chapter two verse 233 of the Holy Quran, Mrs. Radda emphasized, “Even in Islam, mothers are expected to breastfeed their offspring for two whole years. I believe that every other religion also encourages the act of breastfeeding. It undoubtedly holds long-term health and economic benefits for the nation.”

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Commending the collaboration between UNICEF, the State Primary Health Care Agency, and her NGO “Safe Space Humanitarian Initiative” for the 2023 World Breastfeeding Week, Mrs. Radda expressed her willingness to partner with individuals, corporations, and institutions to make a meaningful impact in areas such as health, education, and climate change, thus contributing to a better future for the people of Nigeria.

In a goodwill message for the 2023 World Breastfeeding Week, Mr. Rahama Rihood Mohammed Farah, UNICEF Chief Field Officer, Kano Office, stressed the urgent need to transform the landscape of workplace breastfeeding policies, which currently stands at a mere 1.5 percent in the public sector and a mere 9 percent among organizations.

Farah asserted, “This situation must change. We must create an environment where working parents receive the necessary support to nurture their children while simultaneously pursuing their careers.”

Among the recommendations presented to the Katsina State Government to address breastfeeding challenges in workplaces were provisions for adequate resources to prevent malnutrition by promoting, protecting, and supporting Maternal, Infant, and Young Child Nutrition. Additional suggestions included extending paid maternity leave for Government Employees from three to six months, as well as prioritizing the needs of working parents by providing lactation rooms/crèches in all MDAs and flexible work arrangements.

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Farah expressed optimism that by adopting these measures, workplaces could set a positive example for others to follow, ultimately leading to healthier and happier families. He also encouraged working mothers and parents to unite in advocating for breastfeeding rights while advancing their careers.

Furthermore, Farah called upon individuals with digital access to join online and offline networks to share experiences and knowledge as working parents who breastfeed.

Finally, Farah urged all members of society, including traditional, religious, and community leaders, civil society organizations, and the media, to rally behind the cause of breastfeeding. He emphasized, “Together, we can create a supportive environment that enables breastfeeding, encourages work-life balance, and ensures the health and happiness of our families.”

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