The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, together with Helen Keller International, organised an October 19 meeting to discuss plans to promote nutrition and the breastfeeding of infants and children in the workplace. The meeting was attended by the managers of several large factories and enterprises.

The meeting held in Phnom Penh gave factory managers the opportunity to learn about the important nutritional role breastfeeding played. They also heard key messages relating to the ministry’s plan to encourage female employees to participate in breastfeeding.

Un Sam Oeun, representative of the German government funded MUSEFO project of GIZ, said the project was focused on providing lactation rooms and raising awareness among employees and employers of the importance of nutrition and breastfeeding.

He noted that the lack of lactation rooms in the workplace was one of the main reasons mothers changed their behaviour from breastfeeding to formula, especially after returning to work from their three months maternity leave.

“Today, almost every young woman is an employee who spends almost all her time at work, far from home. This means workplaces must play an important role in promoting nutrition for mothers and children,” he said.

“We increased employers to demonstrate the willingness to do important work in supporting women. Building lactation rooms not only benefits female employees, but also promotes children’s healthy growth and contributes to the nation’s development,” he said.

According to Article 186 of the Labour Law, any enterprise with 100 or more female employees must provide a lactation room and a nursery. Sam Oeun considered the lack of lactation rooms in a workplace a serious barrier to the government’s stated goal of promoting exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continued breast feeding until a child reaches two years of age.

Chum Sen Veasna, Helen Keller representative, said the project would provide an affordable solution to an important issue.

He added that it could also provide a platform that gave women the opportunity to participate in other important programmes such as nutrition and hygiene education, infant and child feeding education and consultation on women’s diet and health. Implementing these projects would be a win-win strategy for employers and employees.

“Creating a positive environment by giving women time off to breastfeed at work, and allowing them time to express milk in the lactation room, will lead to satisfied employees. Their health will also improve, which will result in increased productivity and reduced expenditure on health insurance,” he said.

Kong Satya, representative of the labour ministry’s Department of Occupational Safety and Health, considered the project a key way to impart nutritional knowledge to both employers and employees.

“This programme will encourage female employees to use lactation rooms for their own benefits. The main mission of the labour ministry is to support the government by improving working conditions and the health of factory staff. This will also reduce maternal and infant mortality rates, by improving nutrition,” she said.

The project will equip lactation rooms, with all of the necessary equipment provided, at 28 target locations in Phnom Penh, Kandal, Kampot and Kampong Thom provinces, according to Helen Keller International.