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A call to action for creating breastfeeding-friendly workplaces

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

World Breastfeeding Week 2015: A call to action for creating breastfeeding-friendly workplaces

Hanoi (7 July, 2015) and Ho Chi Minh City (10 July, 2015) – In advance of World Breastfeeding Week 2015 (1 – 7 August), Alive & Thrive and the Viet Nam General Confederation for Labor are hosting workshops to support companies in committing to and establishing workplace lactation spaces. This year’s World Breastfeeding Week theme on breastfeeding and work  aims to empower women working in both formal and non-formal sectors to combine work with healthy child-rearing practices—particularly breastfeeding. By hosting the workshops this week, the host organizations aim for at least 200 new lactation spaces for working mothers to be launched by employers across the country during the first week of August.

Over the past three years, Alive & Thrive and the Viet Nam Confederation of Labor (VGCL) have implemented a program to support breastfeeding for working mothers. The program has been implemented in 70 workplaces, including 10 government agencies and 60 enterprises. Given its success, several companies have replicated the model. By the end of 2014, the banking sector, with 217,000 workers, of which nearly 58 percent are female[1] invested in 15 additional lactation rooms under their management. In early 2015, Hai Phong’s Labor Union also advocated for 33 companies to implement a “Baby friendly Working Environment” program.

“I am committed to advocating for more companies to invest and set up the workplace lactation program. In so doing we can enable working moms to fulfill their dual roles as workers and care providers for their children,” said Hoang Quang Phong, Vice Chairman of Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Viet Nam’s government demonstrated its full support for breastfeeding by approving the 2012 Labor Code Amendment to extend paid maternity leave from four to six months—making the country a global leader in safeguarding the rights of women and young children.

With women comprising 48 percent[2] of the employed workforce in Viet Nam, the decision was critical to supporting working mothers in practicing exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months at home, but did not address the concerns of millions of female workers who wish to continue breastfeeding up to 24 months, in accordance with WHO global infant and young child feeding recommendations. In most workplaces, there are no facilities to support the expression and storage of breastmilk on site.

In 2012, Alive & Thrive collaborated with VGCL to address these barriers by engaging private sector and state agencies to take key actions in support of breastfeeding. The program consists of two components: (i) communicating policies and breastfeeding entitlements to working mothers, and (ii) setting up lactation spaces for female workers to express and store breastmilk in their workplaces.

“From the very beginning, the workplace lactation program, launched in 2012, was welcomed and supported by all the organizations who participated. Employers viewed it as a very practical intervention to improve the well-being and working conditions of their female workers, while also supporting corporate and social responsibility efforts,” Nguyen Thi Thu Hong, Vice Chairwomen of VGCL, said.

Given the success and demand for lactation programs, the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs has included a provision for establishing lactation spaces in an upcoming Decree. Breastfeeding-friendly workplaces are also a practical way for companies to appeal to and support women of reproductive age, who are a critical part of the labor force. Provisions like these are a win-win-win for businesses, working moms, and children.

“Before drafting the Decree, we conducted a survey with employers and employees in concerned agencies. Almost all employers see that the establishment of a lactation room in the workplace is crucial and feasible while employees show their strong expectation for a lactation room in their worksite,” said Ha Dinh Bon, Director of Legislation Department, Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs.

For more information, view a toolkit for establishing breastfeeding friendly workplaces.

Workplaces or working moms are also encouraged to share pictures of their lactation rooms on social media using the following hashtags: #space4lactation and #WBFW15.

About Alive & Thrive

Alive & Thrive is an initiative to save lives, prevent illness, and ensure healthy growth and development through improved breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices. Good nutrition in the first 1,000 days, from conception to two years of age, is critical to enable all children to lead healthier and more productive lives.

In its first five years (2009 to 2014), Alive & Thrive demonstrated that innovative approaches to improving feeding practices could be delivered with impact and at scale in three contexts: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Viet Nam. Alive & Thrive is now supporting others to scale up nutrition by applying and adapting tested, proven approaches and tools in contexts such as Burkina Faso, India, and Southeast Asia. With its emphasis on learning and innovation, Alive & Thrive is expanding its focus in Bangladesh to maternal nutrition and taking a more multisectoral approach in Ethiopia.

Alive & Thrive is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the governments of Canada and Ireland. The initiative is managed by FHI 360.

For more information about Alive & Thrive, please visit: www.aliveandthrive.org and follow @aliveandthrive on Twitter.

Contacts

For VGCL: Department of Female Employee, the Viet Nam General Confederation of Labor; Tel: +84 43 942 1512

For Alive & Thrive: Ms. Vu Thi Thu Ha, PR and Advocacy specialist; Tel: 84(0)93 663 0589; Email: vha@fhi360.org

 

[1] Banking Sector’s Labor Union of Viet Nam, 2014

[2] General Statistics of Viet Nam, 2014, http://www.gso.gov.vn/