Incident with lactating baby at the Mobile World Congress #Marina2Congress

2-3-2016

Thanks for your support and sharing! 6 days ago we published the original post in Spanish and to date we’ve gotten 110.000 visitors, 18.000 Facebook shares, and we were Twitter trending topic in Spain, twice. 75% of our traffic comes from Facebook; 80% Mobile. GSMA, MWC’s organizer, has not made an statement yet.

 

— English translation of the original post—

(Thanks Dr. Carmela Baeza for translating)

This morning I have been kicked out of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The reason? I was sitting on a bench near the entrance with my daughter, Marina, a 5-month-old lactating baby, while her mother was visiting the Congress. That is all. There was no other reason that could justify my being forced to leave. They were not actually asking me to leave, they were kicking Marina out. Here is a picture of the terrible offender moments before the incident:

marina2

Surprisingly, I was not really inside the Congress, but on a bench in the street, near the entrance to it. Exactly here:

congreso

To my understanding, that is the street and as a citizen I should be able to sit there freely, with Marina.

Here is the complete story: I was meeting a client in Barcelona while my wife, duly accredited and in possession of a valid entrance ticket, tried to access the Congress with our lactating daughter.

For those of you who might not know, lactating means that the baby needs her mother to eat (breastfeed), which usually occurs every three or four hours and therefore restricts the time that mother can be away from her child.

The organizers deny my wife entrance into the Congress saying that children are not allowed. My wife explains that this is a breastfed baby, that she will not run around nor cry, and that she is not bringing the child to the Congress out of whim but out of a need to reconcile her family life and her professional life. Their answer to this was “entering a baby to a Congress is not professional”.

Insert: Esther, my wife, is the Partnerships and Strategies Director at a Business Intelligence and Big Data Spanish company, whose clients include several companies from the Ibex (Spanish large cap index) as well as, for example, more than 40 Coca Cola subsidiaries from all around the globe. My wife has two bachelor degrees, an MBA from the University of Columbia (NY) and has worked in multinational corporations like Accenture, JP Morgan, or McKinsey&Co. Lately she gets calls from headhunters a couple of times per month. This is my wife’s professional side, which, according to the MWC organizers is equal to nothing in the face of that horrible act of trying to access the Congress with our 5 month old baby. Please, how totally not professional!!!

After the untactful approach by the Congress representatives, my wife phones me and we agree that as soon as I finish my meeting I will meet her and stay outside with our baby, Marina, so she can go into the Congress. And so it goes. Esther accecesses the building on her own and I go for a walk with Marina, until I decide to sit on one of the entrance benches. I cross a security line (duly accredited, I had an entrance too) which was laid out by the fountain you see in the image. At first, a member of the organization hails me and tells me, in English, that I cannot go in with the baby. I promise him that I am not going to enter the building (which would require going through the actual entrance control), that I am just going to sit on the bench. So he lets me enter and sit on the bench just as I had promised to do.

After 10 minutes of sitting on the bench, answering emails from my cell phone while Marina sleeps peacefully, a woman from the organization (I intuited she was a boss) comes and asks me, in English, to get up and leave because I cannot be there with a baby. I ask her if I am bothering anyone and she angrily snaps back at me “I repeat, kindly, you must leave this place.” I tell her I am on the street and what authority does she have to kick me out of there. Visibly angry, she insists two or three more times that she is “asking me kindly” to leave, which is actually a veiled threat, since there must be “not-nice” ways to get me off the bench. You can imagine.

At this point I had two options: refuse to leave and put up a passive resistance protest, like Rosa Parks or El Langui, or just leave. Since I do not relish conflicts and was not very keen on seeing myself depicted on the next day’s papers being dragged away, held arms and legs by four gorillas, while a fifth pushed my baby’s stroller, I opted for the second option and peacefully left. True, had I stayed, the dragging-away images would have gone viral on social media which would have made the organization plead for forgiveness and rectify. It would have been good proof, albeit violent, of the power of mobile technology to put some reason into, precisely, the world congress of mobiles. It would have been hard to justify to sponsors, participants and public opinion the reasons for such retrograde and discriminatory policy of admission.

The Congress’ attitude differs radically from other experiences my wife and I have had in similar situations. When, two years ago, we travelled with our son Leo, at that time a two-month-old baby, to Colombia, Avianca could not have been more accommodating towards us, being specially careful that the trip was comfortable for mother and baby. And likewise the organization of the congress I was attending there. Same as when we travelled to New York three months ago, with Air Europa. Another example is Campus Madrid, by Google, where they have not only a breastfeeding room but also organizes events for entrepreneur mothers . Even the 4YFN, twin congress to MWC, let us in with the baby yesterday, though after receiving three denials: one from the ticket guy at the entrance, another from the entrance supervisor and another from the woman at the help desk. We were finally admitted by a manager after we voiced our protests; he kindly waved us in and even offered Esther the use of the VIP premise to breastfeed Marina. What I liked most about this man, whose name was Esteban, was the way he told us we could enter. He said: “Sometimes in life we have to be guided by common sense and not just by the rules. Come in.”

I hope the Congress organizers, the Fira de Barcelona, Barcelona city council, the Catalan Region, the Spanish Government, the defendant of the people, and sponsors such as Accenture, Android, Asus, Blackberry, Cisco, Citi, Daimler, Dell, Ernst&Young, Garmin, Google, GoPro, Hitachi, Huawei, intel, Juniper, Lenovo, Paypal, Samsung, STC, Shazam, Softonic, Ubuntu, Adobe, IBM, CaixaBank, McCann, PWC, Twitter, Visa, Telefónica, Sabadell, Mazda, Lavazza, Estrella Damm, Campus Madrid, Havas, Yoigo, or LinkedIn read this story and push for rectification of the admission policies for breastfed babies at next year’s congress. What happened today is not the only case. My friend Juan Carlos Viota, who by the way won the 2010 Google mobile app world contest , has told me today via Facebook that the same thing happened to him when he tried to enter with a baby a few years ago. Maybe that is why good old Viota has gone to San Francisco this week, instead of attending the Congress.

If nothing is done now, it will happen again next year.

#Marina2Congress

Update:

There were more cases:

LactApp, a Mobile App for lactating moms, present at MWC, contacted me. They told me they had discovered that the Congress had a lactating room. But during the days of the congress they did not see any breastfeeding mom or lactant baby around. Since 101.000 attended the Congress, what are the odds? They posted about that, labeling the picture that follows as “The least useful lactating room in the World”

LactApp-MWC16-fail

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