15 May 2018

Kenya: Moms Petition Parliament for Right to Breastfeed in Dignity

Photo: Sam Wanjohi/Capital FM
The protesting moms made a point of breastfeeding their babies outside parliament’s precincts.

Nairobi — Kenyan moms marched to Parliament on Tuesday to push for passage of pending legislation requiring businesses to provide conducive spaces mothers can use to breastfeed their babies.

Their march was precipitated by a restaurant's refusal to allow a mom to breastfeed at one of their tables, directing her instead to the unsanitary lavatory.

The restaurant's actions prompted an uproar on social media and was the precipitating factor for Tuesday's protests.

The protest which started at Freedom corner to Parliament and finally the offending restaurant was characterized by mothers breastfeeding their babies while carrying placards on which the words "breastfeeding is a right" were printed.

The mobilising lobby group called "HER VOICE," through its co-founder Ritah Mutheu, described what happened to the mother as an act of humiliation.

"Adults feed publicly in restaurants and other public spaces. Babies, who cannot fend for themselves, must be accorded the same right. Curtailing this basic right of food, nutrition and health is a violation of the Bill of Rights," Mutheu said.

She said it's now time for every institution to provide designated spaces for breastfeeding so as to respect mothers' dignity.

The women proceeded to parliament where they petitioned the president to sign the Breastfeeding Mothers' bill 2017 that requires employers with over 30 women in their employment, to have a breastfeeding room which lactating mothers should be permitted to access for at least 30 minutes every four hours and whose facilities include a diaper changing station.

The Bill was sponsored last year by Murang'a Woman Representative Sabina Chege.

The Bill is currently pending at the committee of the whole house stage where proposed clauses in the Bill are scrutinised and voted on if they are adopted they become part of a bill.

The petition was received by Gilgil Member of Parliament Martha Wangare and Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura who pledged to support the premise.

Further, the same petition was presented to the management of Olive Restaurant and was received by the Manager Moses Wambua.

Wambua apologised on behalf of the restaurant's management and said that disciplinary measures would be instituted against the waitress who harassed the mother.

He further pledged that the restaurant will create space for mothers to nurse their babies.

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