Thursday , May 24, 2018

Editorial: Insensitivity and ignorance on the rights of mothers

A YOUNG mother ranted on her Facebook account about the insult she had to endure as she used the designated breastfeeding area of the Pag-Ibig Office Lanang Branch last November 16. The Pag-ibig Davao manager has since apologized through a comment in the status shared by SunStar Davao editor-in-chief, but what happened is too important to be left as a status and a comment among friends.

As related by the mother, she was at the Lanang Office at around 1 p.m. to inquire about loans when she needed to pump her breasts. The designated breastfeeding area, however, had some employees and a camera in it.

When asked if they can use the breastfeeding room to pump, the group seemed surprised and left with a deliberate effort to make the young mother feel that they were annoyed, one of them even mumbling: "Sa CR pala sya magpump?" and another twice asking if the mother was done pumping apparently telling the mother to hurry up.

In the comment section of the repost, Pagibig Davao manager Elizabeth Tinagan replied: "Thank you for raising this concern. I called up our Lanang Branch to clarify on the issue. The branch really do not have a breastfeeding area due to their limited space but has been designating their huddle room as breastfeeding area. However, on the day of the incident the room was used by the Allcard, our loyalty card provider as their card capturing area. To ensure that this incident will not happen again, the branch has been instructed to designate their conference room as the breastfeeding area. We have also briefed our employees and the employees of our service providers to give priority and due respect to women using the breastfeeding area. Please accept our sincerest apology. Thank you."

The apology is well-accepted, but what happened is a reality that we all have to address.

First: By the description of what the breastfeeding area in this government office is, it is clear that it was just labeled as such for "compliance with the law", nothing else.

Republic Act 10028, the "Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009", clearly states: "Sec. 11. Establishment of Lactation Stations. - It is hereby mandated that all health and non-health facilities, establishments or institutions shall establish lactation stations. The lactation stations shall be adequately provided with the necessary equipment and facilities, such as: lavatory for hand-washing, unless there is an easily-accessible lavatory nearby; refrigeration or appropriate cooling facilities for storing expressed breastmilk; electrical outlets for breast pumps; a small table; comfortable seats; and other items, the standards of which shall be defined by the Department of Health. The lactation station shall not be located in the toilet."

There was a station, all right, but it was there for show, not for use.

Second: The snootiness the mother had to endure is very common among government offices; manifestations of decades of ineptitude and corruption where the public has to wait and suffer if they want government service.

To get rid of this mindset and being reminded that government is a public service and government employees are public servants was the first order of the day when President Rodrigo Duterte became president, but bad habits are hard to change. Thus, the snootiness remains among many.

That on top of ignorance of the law makes for the suffering of mothers. How many more mothers were subjected to such humiliating experience, we will never know. We only know this one mother who dared stand up for her rights to pump her milk to feed her baby.

We stand by this mother and all mothers who are ensuring that their progeny get only the best that their bodies can produce: Normalize breastfeeding and get rid of our ignorance and miseducation on the human breasts.