Ms Bashiratu Kamal Muslim, Head of Gender, General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU), says the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding policy for nursing mothers has been a challenging phenomenon due to unfavourable laws and policies of the current Labour Act.
She said although nursing mothers were advised to ensure strict adherence to exclusive breastfeeding for six months to protect their babies from infections, many were unable to do that because they had to resume work a few weeks after delivery.
She said this at a stakeholder consultative meeting organised by the Centre for Social Justice in partnership with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Ghana, on Current Policies and their Impact on Maternal Health, Gender Equality, and Women’s Empowerment.
Maternity protection laws in Article 27 of the 1992 Constitution and Part Six of the Labour Law, Act 651, are to safeguard the rights of pregnant women, lactating mothers, and babies at the workplace.
They are to ensure that women have adequate time during pregnancy, childbirth, and recovery, without risking their employment or facing discrimination of any sort.
Ms Kamal Muslim said the provision in the Article meant mothers were expected to practice six months of exclusive breastfeeding and stay home until their babies were six months old.
However, women had only three months maternity leave, a situation, which continued to hamper the success of the policy and the safety of babies.
She said the situation necessitated the establishment of breastfeeding corners for mothers in some offices.
Ms Kamal Muslim stated that until the laws were reviewed, mothers and babies would continue to face challenges, which would be detrimental to the health and safety of children and the younger generation.
Dr Alexander Manu, Senior Lecturer, School of Public Health, University of Ghana, noted that issues affecting the implementation of the exclusive breastfeeding policy were hampering the progress of children.
According to experts, breast milk is an essential nutrient needed for the proper growth of children and prevents them from infections.
Dr Manu disclosed that 66,852 children died before their fifth birthday in the year 2000 and 39,214 also died in the same period in 2020, representing a 41 per cent reduction.
Neonatal deaths also recorded 20,359 in 2020, up from 24,605, same period in the year 2000, which represented a 17 per cent reduction.
Dr. Manu said the reductions were due to interventions such as exclusive breastfeeding put in place to achieve success.
Dr Sodzi Sodzi-Tettey, Chairman, of the Council for Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), a civil society Think Tank, said it was essential to continuously review and strengthen policies to protect the rights and health of pregnant women and promote gender equality in the workforce.