ILCA Advocating for Maternity Protection at the International Labour Organization

ILCA continued its efforts to increase maternity protection, including advocacy for nursing breaks for mothers, at the recent International Labour Organization (ILO) Centennial Celebration.

The ILO, founded 100 years ago, exists to set labor standards, develop policies and devise programs promoting decent work for all women and men. Established as the first specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) in 1947, the ILO is unique in its tripartite structure, bringing together governments, employers, and workers from 187 member states.

Lisa Mandell, MBA, IBCLC, is one of ILCA’s liaisons to the United Nations. Lisa has for the last eighteen months joined other ILCA liaisons who have been working with the UN with the goal of elevating the needs of breastfeeding families in the workplace. On 10 April 2019 she attended the ILO Centennial Celebration, a High-Level Meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York. This meeting was held to celebrate the founding of the International Labour Organization (ILO) 100 years ago, reflect on their accomplishments, and discuss the future of work.

The High-Level Meeting included remarks from high-level UN officials, including the UN Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly, and the Director-General of the ILO and representatives from 24 different member states or groups of states. The speakers emphasized the importance of working toward the goal of decent work for all, how social justice is a part of this effort, and that labor should not be viewed as a commodity. Many discussed the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 8 (SDG 8) on Decent Work and Economic Growth. Challenges identified include mass unemployment, discrimination, and informal work; emerging issues include digitalization, climate change, demographic change. Of importance to ILCA, many speakers mentioned a focus on women and work, increasing women’s participation in the workforce and reducing the gender pay gap.

At two interactive panels, Addressing Unfinished Commitments to Achieve Decent Work for All, and The Future of Work, the challenges and emerging issues were discussed. Women’s employment remains a priority. With discussion of the changes in the world of work through technology and other issues, consideration of meeting the needs of working and breastfeeding parents will be critical.

In her role as liaison to the UN, Lisa not only advocates for lactation-related outcomes, but also brings back to the advocacy team a deeper understanding of the ways in which ILCA can align our advocacy goals with the larger world agenda around work. This continues the work ILCA has been doing, with other organizations, to emphasize the importance of maternity protection and pumping or nursing breaks for employed mothers, as identified in this statement for the Commission on the Status of Women.

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