On Friday, 22 November, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) inaugurated the New Mothers’ Space in its West Bank field office. Opened by Director of UNRWA Operations Felipe Sanchez, it is not just the first breastfeeding space UNRWA has opened in any of its five field offices, but also the first such space among the members of the UN country team in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).
The New Mothers’ Space is the product of a year-long effort led by a dedicated gender task force and bringing together departments and offices across the field. The first of its kind in the Agency, the initiative promotes breastfeeding, providing mothers with a clean and suitable environment in which they can breastfeed their newborns or express milk and store it in a temperature-controlled environment until the end of the workday.
Staff members who worked on health and on emergencies, in the field and in administrative offices, all agreed that UNRWA mothers deserved such a space, believing it essential to helping them perform at the highest levels while working in comfort and safety.
The director, Mr. Sanchez, said: “In this time of austerity measures, our team was challenged to make sure that this facility was created in a way that is cost-effective and did not add to the running costs of the Agency. I am proud that we, as a field, have made a provision to make it easier for new mothers on our staff to balance their work responsibilities with those to their children and families.”
Mr. Sanchez added that the initiative was only a beginning. “We are aware that other steps are necessary to encourage women to see themselves as the leaders they are within our Agency and within Palestinian society, but this is a good starting point”, he said.
To conclude the launch, colleagues from the UNRWA Department of Health presented the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child. A representative from the Department of Human Resources explained the logistics of the reserving the space for use and provided important information about breastfeeding policies and the other rights of new mothers within the Agency.