International Women’s Day 2018

8 March 2018

This International Women’s Day, the Access to Nutrition Foundation (ATNF) is celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women worldwide. Across the globe, women play a crucial role in providing healthy nutrition. ATNF considers women of child-bearing age, including young adolescent women and girls, to be a high risk group and feel they should be safeguarded and supported as much as possible. We believe that mothers everywhere should be able to help their children achieve optimal growth, development and health through exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of their life and continued breastfeeding until two or older, while also meaningfully participating in the labour market.

The 2016 Global Access to Nutrition Index found, however, that some women find it difficult to maintain breastfeeding because they do not benefit from adequate maternity leave and have to return to work before the child is six months old. Moreover, many employers do not provide flexible working arrangements nor appropriate facilities to support breastfeeding mothers. At a minimum all employers’ maternity protection policies should follow the ILO standard in this area.

ATNF contend that it is imperative that all employers provide sufficient paid maternity leave. In ATNF’s 2016 Global Index, it emerged that only one company committed to providing paid maternity leave between three and six months to all employees globally. This was also the only company that publicly disclosed this policy. Employers should make every effort to improve the means for women to continue breastfeeding while working. This is important because the right nutrition in the first 1,000 days provides the foundation for children to grow and nations to prosper. Employers should strive to create a working environment supportive to lactating mothers by allowing breaks at work to express milk, providing fridges to store the milk and making more private, secure places available for breastfeeding. All of these aspects of best practice in supporting breastfeeding mothers in the workplace are assessed by ATNF’s Indexes.

Access to Nutrition Indexes include extensive analysis of the policies, practices and disclosure in relation to BMS marketing of the world’s six largest baby food manufacturers sent out in a sub-ranking. The first full assessment was undertaken for the 2016 Global Access to Nutrition Index and can be found here. The forthcoming 2018 Global Index, will again publish this sub-ranking, showing whether the six companies have improved their BMS marketing policies and practices since the last Index. A key part of the analysis is based on studies of BMS marketing on the ground, in large emerging markets. In 2017, ATNF undertook two such studies in Thailand and Nigeria. The findings for Thailand are available here, and those for Nigeria will be published later this month.

ATNF will soon be announcing more details about the 2018 Global Index, until then, a very happy International Women’s Day!

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