sexta-feira, 5 de agosto de 2011

Milk for East Timor (Mothers unite for East Timor)

By Penny Johnston (Penny Johnston is the preseter of Babytalk)

It came as quite a shock to me that women in many traditional countries do not breast feed their babies. I had not thought of breast feeding as a feminist challenge but for many very poor countries where women are not regarded as equals a woman's breast milk is not considered good enough to feed a baby. After all why would a lowly woman be able to produce something to give life to a child? It's hard to imagine why this would be a widely held belief but in my mind it is the biggest argument to fight for women's rights I have ever heard. Let's hear from Kirsty Sword-Gusmao the wife of the Prime Minister of East Timor.

As someone who found breast feeding to be so convenient (once it was established) I couldn't imagine why you wouldn't choose to breast feed if you lived in a country where safe water and sanitary conditions where not the norm. I didn't realise that because women are so lowly regarded in some countries babies will die because they are fed unsanitary formula over breast milk which is considered an inferior food.

I hope this shocks you as much as it did me.

It made me sit back on my comfortably well fed and well educated backside and consider how incredibly lucky I am. It also made me want to do something about it. To conincide with World Breast Feeding Awareness week Kirsty Sword Gusmao the wife of East Timor's Prime Minister was present at a breast feeding event held at the Collingwood Town Hall. The morning tea with breast feeding mums was organised by MILK: Mothers Unite for East Timor and was designed not only to raise money for East Timorise mothers but to ask us all to consider how the lowly status of women discourages breast feeding and safe birth practices in traditional communities in developing countries.

Nicholas D Kristof wrote about the issue of breast feeding in Niger in the New York Times in June this year.

It would be wonderful to think that any contribution a mother can make to the health of her child would be honoured rather than disrespected by a community and it is something that Kirsty Sword-Gusmao tried very hard to change in East Timor, feeding her own babies in public as the wife of the first president.

Her aid organisation Alola specifically supports women's programs across East Timor and a small amount of money creats a large amount of good for this community.

$10 a week provides nutritious meals for an average family

$25 buys one Alola Foundation maternity pack to encourage women to give birth in a hospital or health centre with medical assistance

$75 per semester buys an Alola Foundation scholarship to keep a girl in primary or secondary school

$200 per month provides training as a nurse

$500 covers one semester of university tuition fees

To discover more about the work of Alola the links are here.

Alola in East Timor
Aloloa in Australia

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