News last week that Parliament had agreed to spend over Shs 80 million on a day care centre rubbed many Ugandans the wrong way. The major contention was whether MPs, who are already well-facilitated at the taxpayers' expense - with a large salary, interest-free car loans and more recently, iPads, now also need a day care centre.
Many people called the MPs selfish, a drain on the economy, and many uncharitable names that I cannot reproduce in this article.
While these sentiments are totally understandable, we still need to step away and ask the bigger question about whether or not our workplaces offer decent facilities for working mothers.
Given Uganda's youthful population, there was always going to come a time when Parliament would reflect this statistic in their demographic.
Parliament has 135 women MPS, many of whom are in their reproductive age. If Parliament is a mirror of society, then it is true that many employers around the country also have a sizable female workforce which is within the reproductive age.
A few years ago, the women who work at St Balikuddembe (Owino) market approached their leaders, asking for a piece of land near the market, to enable them build a day care centre for their children.
Many of these women could not afford the luxury of housemaids, and even if they could, many still wanted to have access to their children, especially of breastfeeding age.
At the time, the leaders of the market were hesitant to give up land to the working mothers, and instead wanted to give away the land to an investor. The market women then approached a women's rights organisation for assistance in the negotiations with the market leaders.
The unfortunate fact is that across Uganda, not many women are guaranteed decent working conditions. In many instances workplaces do not consider gender aspects in working conditions. Many employers, whether small, medium or large-scale enterprises, lack the knowledge, skills and motivation to put in place working conditions that are attractive to women.
This includes measures such as flexibility in working hours and place of work as well as affordable quality childcare facilities. Our Constitution throws some light regarding the standards expected for women who work.
Article 33 (3) states that "the state shall protect women and their rights, taking into account, their unique status and natural maternal functions in society."
Article 40(1) (a) on economic rights, states that "Parliament shall enact laws to provide for the rights of persons to work under satisfactory, safe and healthy conditions" and Article 40 (4) states that "the employer of every woman worker shall accord her protection during pregnancy and after birth, in accordance with the law."
Most employers offer maternity leave of sorts. I say "of sorts" because despite the Employment Act of 2006 giving women a period of sixty working days as maternity leave, not all employers grant the full length of the leave.
I have heard of women who have to report back to work two days after delivery otherwise they face the danger of being sacked from their jobs. Many employers have thus read their obligation to working mothers as being limited to providing maternity leave.
But as the Constitution clearly stipulates, the obligation goes beyond maternity leave to providing satisfactory and safe conditions, and according the woman protection after birth to enable her play their natural maternal function - and breast-feeding is one such central function.
Providing onsite day care services is one way to promote and protect the rights of working mothers. And all working women in Uganda should enjoy this right. The issue also goes beyond women being able to afford house helps because house helps do not breastfeed the babies.
The ministry of Health has long promoted the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child's life. Many women would like to breastfeed their children even longer.
Many women do not live near their workplaces to rush home to breastfeed their children, and for younger children, it is often better that they be breastfed on demand. Since our MPs have finally realised that in order for them to work well they need a conducive work environment, including a day care centre, it is incumbent upon them to advocate similar services for other working mothers in this country.
It is also incumbent upon other employers to borrow a leaf from Parliament and put in place mother-friendly services. When women are able to work well, it works well for all of us.
The author is a civil society activist.