Letter to Hon. Zuleika Hassan, Kwale Woman Representative, The Kenya Parliament

Dear Hon. Zuleika Hassan,

Thank you for putting your wisdom to use; for your courage and ingenuity in representing you constituency, women and humanity at large. Thank you for being the true role model of a great African woman legislator. Bringing your breastfeeding child on to the floor of parliament was an effective symbolic gesture that has ignited the necessary conversation on the inappropriate work environments and hours that breastfeeding mothers have to endure in order to stay included.

My dear honourable one, you need not have even bothered to justify your action and to give the excuse that you had a family emergency. No, no, no, family emergency or not, you should have the freedom to choose whether you bring your nursing baby to work with you or not. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you doing what women do best – multitasking – in this case, contributing to important debates in the house as you nourish your baby.

And, by the way, I am blown and befuddled by the violent language that the media has chosen in reporting your story – with headlines like: “Kenyan MP thrown out of parliament chambers for entering with baby”. It also fascinates me how the trending angle of your effective legislative work is being portrayed in a ‘victim-lens’ as opposed to a ‘victor-lens’. You are the victor in this saga.

You and your fellow women MPs, in fact, should not have walked out of parliament. You should have stood your ground and instead asked the men who were uncomfortable with the vision of a breastfeed mother and child to go out of the house if they were so disturbed; for, in comparison to the contribution of those men, your contribution in the house at that very moment was double-double.

But still, my dear honourable one, you made your point loud and clear. In addition to clarifying that a baby is not a bundle of explosives, when you explain to men such as the Speaker who asked you to leave the house because it was not the appropriate place for feeding a baby, remind them of how it is their minds that are colonised by the likes of Nestle.

Yes, my dear honourable one, remind them of the Nestle Baby Powder Milk Saga, yes that one in which that Nestle powder milk was dubbed “The Baby Killer”; yes, that one so well historicized by Business Insider in an article titled: “Every parent should know the scandalous history of infant formula.”

In fact, honourable one, challenge them and ask: should we investigate whether those men are on the payroll of Nestle? After all, if breastfeeding mothers are not allowed to bring their babies to work and to breastfeed their bases on demand, when the baby needs fresh milk from the breast, the alternative is to feed babies on inferior milk that is infant formula.

My dear honourable and MP of the month, I know that you are a busy woman and so I will conclude. I salute you dear. I wish you the wisdom and strength to continue your effective advocacy and to also shine a light on the state of mind of those men who think breastfeeding in parliament is a shame. Their minds are colonized and it is they who need to decolonize their minds and to stop being a shame.

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