OPINIONPeople Daily

It’s time you signed Breastfeeding Bill, Mr President

What is the world coming to! Have we reached a point where we have lost sense of reality, empathy and perspective? Has it now become a shame for lactating mothers to breastfeed their babies in public?

I am perturbed by an incident in which  a breastfeeding mother was embarrassed at Nairobi’s restaurant on Mother’s Day eve. Ironically, the embarrassment was caused by, wait, another woman! My late mother (may her soul rest in peace) would have woken up from her resting place if she heard such!

The Breastfeeding Mothers Bill 2017 is lying on the pending tray of President Uhuru Kenyatta for his assent. The bill is not asking for much Mr President. It simply calls for the protection of motherhood by asking employers and owners of public properties to make provision for breastfeeding mothers in the workplace, by providing baby changing and lactation facilities, and flexible working hours.

I want to believe that Uhuru loves children, and their mothers for that matter. Therefore, barring any bureaucratic hurdles, I believe the President takes this as a priority in order to make it easier, especially for working mothers.

As it stands, Safaricom leads the way in establishing facilities that enable working mothers to play their dual roles without feeling victimised or marginalised. It is really heartening that they have established a nursery for those children whose mothers are unable to leave them at home for whatever reason.

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Talking about marginalisation, we are busy building an army of angry, poor people in this country. I am referring to the incessant abuse of the less privileged members of society, through errors of omission and commission.

It did not start yesterday. Since independence, the poor have always been given a raw deal by successive governments. Never mind that many of them were disenfranchised at independence, having sacrificed their lives for the country’s self-rule.

The opportunistic armchair freedom fighters, who never even dared throw a stone or epithet at the colonialists are now the capitalists. The ragged Mau Mau army returned from the forests to find what they had fought for with their blood had changed hands to an oppressor with the same skin colour as theirs!

The recent tragedy at the Patel Dam in Solai, Nakuru county is a good case study of how the rich in this country operate carrying a “devil may care” attitude. We like to call it impunity. With apparent complicity from the authorities, the farm owners build dams on their land, knowing too well that they put at risk lives of thousands of people downstream.

To add salt to injury, according to some residents, they denied them God-given right to access to rainwater by selfishly diverting and hoarding it. So it was a double tragedy for the hapless families. Pray, who will pay for the massive loss of life, let alone property?

In urban centres, the authorities tear down informal structures that the poor eke out a living from, to pave way for multimillion dollar investments. But no, that is not the problem. No one really thinks they have families to feed like everyone else, and invest in convenient spaces where they can do business.

In courts of law, woe unto you if you have no money, or ‘worthy’ social, economic or political clout to buy justice. The recent acquittal of a self-styled Nairobi pastor, who was facing charges of causing death by dangerous driving, is both sad and scary. This is despite numerous witnesses swearing under oath that the pastor was the one behind the wheel at the time of the accident.

We are sitting on a powder keg, with all real the estate boom and increasing incomes for the rich and middle class. I pray that we will open up our eyes soon and create a just society with equal rights for all, before it is too late. 

Writer is the Executive Director, Centre for Climate Change Awareness—[email protected]

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