A glimpse of the Care Lodge for Mums at the New Oriental School of Shanghai.
The first seven days of August 2014 marked the 23rd World Breastfeeding Week. Against this backdrop, on 7 August in Shanghai the ACFTU launched its campaign for the Promotion of Building Care Lodges for Mums, aiming to draw on best practice from Shanghai and promote care for working mums elsewhere in China.
Fan Jiying, ACFTU Vice-Chair, National Secretary and Director of the Women Workers’ Committee, attended the launch and delivered a keynote speech. Xiao Kuntao, Vice-Chair of Shanghai Municipal Council of Trade Unions (SMCTU), and Zhang Xiuping, Director-General of the ACFTU Women Workers’ Department, each shared their thoughts and experiences of building the Care Lodge for Mums initiative in Shanghai. They also discussed how women workers’ rights and interests can be protected throughout the menstrual, childbearing, birth and breastfeeding phases by emulating Shanghai’s example.
In June 2013, the SMCTU kicked off the Care Lodge for Mums building programme, with a view to creating private, healthy and comfortable spaces for nursing mums to breastfeed their baby and take a rest in the workplace. So far, 513 care lodges have been put in place in Shanghai, where social resources have been leveraged and just 40,000 yuan (US$ 6,500) of supporting funds allocated by the SMCTU.
The achievements of the SMCTU can be summed up in one word: innovation. To begin with, its work conception is innovative. By following the law of the market economy, the SMCTU positions itself as a hub and cooperates with market actors to build the lodges. Its operational mode is innovative too. Viewing the programme as being of public benefit, the SMCTU set up a special fund at the Shanghai Volunteer Service Foundation to institutionalize the funding, building, operation and management of the programme. Last but not least, its working pattern is innovative. With no heavy lifting, the SMCTU makes it easy to build such a lodge. A neat and safe space of a few square metres, equipped with the necessary items, is enough and already reaches the threshold. Though compact and simple, the lodge mirrors social progress in respecting women’s rights and interests.
Following the programme’s kickoff in Shanghai, Chen Hao, ACFTU Vice-Chair and First National Secretary, offered important advice on promoting best practice from Shanghai in other parts of China in line with local conditions. Starting with metropolitan areas and highly developed medium-sized and small cities, he announced, the programme will be promoted step by step, with a focus on locations where women workers are concentrated. As a matter of fact, the ACFTU has always attached great importance to protecting women workers’ lawful rights and interests and put forward specific requirements for trade unions at various levels. Recently, the ACFTU issued its Opinion on Strengthening Grassroots Union Organization under New Circumstances, which includes guidance on strengthening trade unions’ work for women at grassroots level. In addition, the ACFTU has redoubled its efforts to facilitate the implementation of the Special Regulation Concerning the Labour Protection of Female Employees, promulgated in 2012, and priority has been given to rank-and-file female employees, women rural migrant workers and women agency workers, as well as medium-sized, small and micro enterprises.
In response, the Dongcheng District Federation of Trade Unions in Beijing announced that women workers within the district can apply to their enterprise unions to build a lodge for nursing mums, and the District Federation will help set up the lodge once the application is forwarded. Each lodge is divided into a breastfeeding zone and a rest zone, with the former equipped with a refrigerator, sterilizing cabinet, breast pump and feeding bottle, and the latter with books and magazines on nursing and childcare. Frosted glass on four sides of the lodge lets in light while keeping the space private. An award of 1,000 yuan will be made by the District Federation to any enterprise which completes the building of a certified lodge. The award can be used to buy a microwave oven, diaper change table and other necessary items. So far, eight care lodges for mums have been set up within the district, and the move has been warmly welcomed by working mums.