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Mothers at work

Grace Wachira @yaa_grace

Like many mothers, Fanne Mwambi has been faced with the challenge of having to plan to leave her three-month-old child to go back to work.

The mother of three who is on maternal leave has, however, been contemplating on whether to go back to work or not. With her first and second child, Fanne felt guilty leaving them and eventually supplementing breast milk before the recommended six months.

“It’s devastating when you need six months of exclusive breastfeeding and the last three of the six, you are in a working environment that has no allocation or privacy to pump milk.

And worse they only let you leave after 5pm and you get stuck in traffic for hours,” says Fanne, a Fusion columnist, who writes on juggling between motherhood and career.

But Caroline Mbugua has had it easy. Almost three years ago, when she was expectant, she was able to do her check-ups and follow up clinics from the comfort of her workplace.

When she was due, Carol proceeded on her maternal leave. To ensure that the needs of working mothers are addressed, her employer offers new mothers a minimum of 16 weeks fully paid maternity leave and a reduced hours for the first six months (six hours instead of eight per day).

They also have fully equipped and professionally staffed childcare facilities, a doctor on site and a private mother’s room. “I would comfortably express milk and have it well stored in a fridge and so I did not have to deal with the pressures of feeding my daughter, Kyla, or not coming to work because I could also bring her to work,” says Carol, an economist in the Regulatory and Public Policies Department.

Exclusive breastfeeding goes a long way as far as nurturing children is concerned and this is what Carol maximised on. “Kyla was on exclusive breast milk for six months and she turned out healthy.

Her immune system is strong, and I do not have to deal with those troublesome issues such as allergies and colds,” she adds. Her family was pleasantly shocked when they learnt that she could be a mother and an employee at work at the same time.

“My mother was happy and supportive. My friends loved the fact that my place of employment had such facilities. They even started advocating for the same where they worked,” Carol laughed.

“When Kyla was nine months old, she got a viral infection and I managed it from the office. I dispensed my duties as an employee as well as nursed Kyla until she got better. It also helps that we have professional caregivers who take care of the children,” she beams.

Now that Kyla is three, she occasionally goes to work with her mother. “She loves it there. It is colourful and they have games and she gets to interact with other children,” she says.

Carol has no headaches when her nannies do not show up to work. If anything, it’s a bit tougher for her when she goes on leave.

Steve Chege, Director – Corporate Affairs, Safaricom, says the company has continued to create the most mother-friendly working conditions.

“We strive to reduce the disruption and costs associated with replacing women leaving the workforce to raise families and to help address the shortage of women in senior management positions within the company,” he adds.

Companies that offer childcare benefits for their employees stand to benefit from improved recruitment, retention, and productivity of workers, according to a report released last week by International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group.

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