I was invited to represent Girls’ Globe at World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action‘s (WABA)Global Breastfeeding Partners Forum (GBPF) in Penang, Malaysia, on quite short notice. To me, this meant that I didn’t have the time to get nervous, nor to actually realize that I was going to the other side of the world with my husband and 8-month-old daughter.
When the airplane lifted towards the cloudy sky in Copenhagen it all suddenly hit me, and my heart skipped a beat. I was going to attend a breastfeeding conference with people from all over the world, many of whom have been in the game for longer than I have even existed. I was going to represent this fantastic organization that I had only even been aware of for no more than two months or so. I was going to take part in a plenary session in front of all of these knowledgeable people. What on earth was I getting myself into? What was I going to say?
We arrived in Penang quite late in the evening, two days before the forum was going to begin. My daughter had spent hours at my breast, or sleeping in my arms more or less the entire flight (somehow she couldn’t settle with daddy at that particular time). I felt as if I had been hit by a truck. Oh, how I longed to get a good night’s sleep in a proper bed. And my gut feeling (which most often is a good friend of mine) told me that I actually would.
I was wrong. The littlest one in our family decided not to fall asleep, but to have a breastfeeding party until around 3 am. Then we all finally collapsed into a deep, jet lagged sleep.
I woke up 7 hours later, still feeling quite heavy-headed but somewhat rested. And it hit me again – that feeling of nervousness and insecurity. However, this time I decided to turn my emotions around and I told myself that I can only do my best, and doing so is going to be sufficient.
The main objective of the GBPF was to refine the elements of two global campaigns that WABA is currently working on: the Warm Chain of Support and the Empowering Parents Campaign. The Warm Chain of Support is an extension of the Baby-friendly hospital initiative (BFHI) and it attempts to provide a consistent pattern of care and support for the mother and child within and across the community and health care system, throughout pregnancy, labor, post-labor and up to 1000 days after the child is born.
The Empowering Parents Campaign focuses on increasing the supply of gender equitable social protection to facilitate for parents and caregivers to integrate caring work – including breastfeeding – and work. In other words: to make sure that every man and woman is eligible to adequate parental leave and has appropriate support at their workplaces.
By bringing together all sorts of breastfeeding advocates – researchers, lactation consultants, professors, midwives, doulas, paediatricians, journalists, bloggers and so on – the desired outcome was to get insights into how the above mentioned campaigns can be revised and improved.
The plenary discussion I was invited to take part in was called “The Next Generation”. When preparing for the plenary, I had the pleasure to collaborate with several young leaders from all over the world. Our team represented the younger generation at the forum, and we were to give our “youth perspective” on the campaigns. I shared my personal experiences of being a young mother and student in Sweden, and Girls’ Globe’s mission to raise the voices of young women worldwide.
The take home messages that we, as panelists, wanted to disseminate to the audience was that for us to be able to take action on all levels of decision-making, we first and foremost need to be invited into the discussions. We need to be involved and trusted, and feel that we hold the power in our hands, so that our potential energy can be developed into future success.
Even though all of us in the youth panel use social and digital media in several different ways and to different extents, they are still our common denominators. These platforms are the common denominators for billions of people around the world, on all levels of society – which is why we must use these platforms for action.
Our plenary was the final one of the forum, and when we closed the discussion my initial feeling was relief. I had made it without fainting, without losing my words, without falling asleep in the middle of a sentence. I actually felt as if I had made an impact in one way or another.
I left Malaysia and the GBPF feeling grateful to WABA for hosting this vibrant forum, and encouraged to continue the ever so important breastfeeding advocacy. I feel uplifted by the collaboration between the generations of advocates, empowered and inspired by all the eloquent participants and most of all – appreciated for what I do for not only my own daughter, but also what I intend to do for every child on the planet.
I will always strive to change and improve social norms and attitudes to promote and foster environments that support and value mothers, fathers, children and breastfeeding.
Stay tuned for much more on breastfeeding from Girls’ Globe, and you can read all our posts on the subject here.