February 4, 2013 saw the inauguration of Western Mindanao State University’s Wellness and Lactation Center—the first of its kind in Zamboanga. Driven by the university’s vision and mission, the center serves to augment WMSU’s efforts to consistently remain a leading institution in human resource development.
As of current, the university is endeavoring toward being recognized as a Mother-Baby Friendly Workplace, an essential component of which is the establishment of a functional lactation station that can support the needs of its breastfeeding populace. This development is the university’s response to Republic Act No. 10028 or the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 which mandates all health and non-health facilities, establishments, and institutions to uphold the rights and enhance the welfare of breastfeeding women by providing safe and healthful working conditions and by appropriating facilities and opportunities for them to exercise maternal functions.
Right after its inauguration, a gallant donation of P45,000.00 was received from the Bachelor of Science in Nursing Class 1982 alumni specifically for the improvement of the lactation station. Under the supervision of Engr. Aquilino Perez, the installation of fixed glass windows, a glass door, a lavatory, and other fixtures were successfully accomplished within a week.
Aligned toward achieving the Millenium Development Goal on exclusive breatfeeding for at least 6 months, WMSU President Dr. Milabel E. Ho issued Memorandum Order No. 160 on February 28, 2013 which advances the state-guaranteed right of breastfeeding mothers (as embodied in RA 10028) through the provision of a lactation break to all of the institution’s concerned employees. It stipulates that all nursing mothers are granted at least 40 minutes to perform breastfeeding duties for every 8-hour work period.
Dr. Ho, through MO 160, also called on the active partipation of the different colleges and offices through their respective heads by furnishing the Human Resource Management office with a list of all its faculty members and employees who are expectant and nursing mothers for proper enlistment to the university’s lactation services. Those who are qualified to avail of this program are greatly encouraged to have themselves personally enlisted at the Wellness and Lactation Center, located immediately beside the entrance to WMSU’s Grade School Department.
Dr. Gloria G. Florendo, OIC Director of the Special Programs and Projects Office (SPPO), conceptualized the mechanism as to how this advocacy can properly be institutionalized together with the university’s Lactation Management Team, composed of the University Physician, Nurse-in-charge of the lactation station, Chair of the Lactation Advocacy Team, Human Resources Management (HRM) Officer, and representatives from the College of Nursing and College of Home Economics.
At present, there are only 11 pregnant employees who are registered with the laction station and the SPPO. Dr. Florendo expressed her concern over the need to determine the exact members of WMSU’s pregnant population group well before they file for maternity leave as the university’s lactation services are not only intended for those who have already given birth and are presently lactating but most especially for those expectant mothers who would want to succeed in exclusive breastfeeding.
The Lactation Management Team has been busy in conducting research and information dissemination campaigns in order to reach out to would-be mothers, breastfeeding women, and females in the reproductive age—an example of which is the Exclusive Breastfeeding Forum that took place on July 12, 2013 at the College of Home Economics Function Room. To share the advocacy to a crowd of 50, the forum had Amina Lim, Regional Program Coordinator for the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) Maternal and Young Child Nutrition Security Initiatives in Asia (MYCNSIA), as its resource speaker.
The team also visited various health institutions and hospitals in the city in order to determine the present challenges that prevent women from exclusively breastfeeding. Moreover, they also prepared the necessary paperwork that seeks to communicate every expectant mother’s desire to exclusively breastfeed to the respective medical practitioners and health institutions concerned—backed up and endorsed by the university itself.
Because of the noteworthy developments that are taking place in WMSU’s desire to amplify its support for its human capital, expectant and breastfeeding mothers alike need not worry about making their maternal goal of exclusively breastfeeding come to pass. As the lactation break and other assistive services are already in place, the university’s pool of pregnant employees can rest assured that their rights and welfare are upheld in a definitive and unreserved manner.
(S.R.I. VARGAS, WMSU PRESS RELEASE)