Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Roseline Ajonglefac , Cameroon Link

The International Coordinator of WABA Men’s initiative received the first men’s special fellowship offer as senior breastfeeding advocate to attend training on in-house policy orientation and participate in the 7th Global Breastfeeding Partners Meeting (GBPM VI) in Penang, Malaysia from September 21 to October 15. The orientation on WABA policy and philosophy took place from 20th September to 6th October 2008, followed by a complimentary feeding and food workshop (7th -8th October and later the Global Breastfeeding Partners Meeting (9th-10th October). Special strategic meetings on how to involve men in all regions took place thereafter with leaders of well established taskforces and working groups.
There was a lot learned from the presentations, group discussions and exchanges in plenary during the sessions. It would be recalled that the orientation training came as a result of the consultation with members of the WABA Men’s, and Gender Working Group, and Mother Support Task Force that led to the appointment of James Achanyi-Fontem as the Coordinator of the Men's Working Group (MWG). The position was formerly held by Co-coordinators, Ray Maseko(Swaziland) and Per Gunner Engblom(Sweden) since October 2006.
After the introduction of what WABA is all about and who are the icons by Julianna Lim Abdullah, WABA Coordinator of information, education and communication, James was treated to several planning meetings with the Co-Directors, Susan Siew and Sarah Amin on the direction of activities.
During these meetings, the co-directors encouraged all the staff and icons to join them in welcoming James to the exciting and challenging role of coordinating the MWG agenda. The Secretariat team, particularly, Julianna, worked with James on various activities successfully during the three-week internship, which resulted to the initiation of a plan of action for the period running from 2008 to 2010. Latsmi Menon who coordinates the Gender Working Group also held meetings to high light the work done by WABA so far and where the men’s working group is to join for the promotion of gender initiatives considered vital for moving breastfeeding protection and promotion one step ahead. Julianna is the liaison person at the WABA Secretariat to support the MWG Coordinator in his efforts.
Policy orientation sessions resulted in defining clear areas of work and collaboration with the different taskforces, working groups and regional core partners and organizations. Some of the areas include:
* continued involvement of men in World Breastfeeding Week and other social mobilization activities;
* joint and/or coordinated advocacy strategies on various key issues (mother support, women and work, HIV, birthing, BFHI, community support and assistance), including through a Rapid Response System;
* increased advocacy to health professionals and around the Doctors’ Initiative and addressing challenges in the medical curricula;
* complementing Core Partner (CP) skills and activities in capacity building/ training, including pre and in-service training and counseling skills;
* increased focus on gender mainstreaming, men and youth outreach and involvement;
* joint development of breastfeeding/IYCF materials and dissemination of such materials;
* continued coordination among the CPs through the annual GBPMs and the Global Forum for breastfeeding promotion scheduled in Quebec, Canada in 2010 and,
* continuation of fellowship programmes at the WABA Secretariat with CPs and network partners.
According to WABA co-directors, prosperity is particularly an important theme as all of us move from one project cycle to another. The new WABA Strategic Plan which runs from 2008 – 2012 was discussed and adopted by members of the steering committee in Penang. The SP has some new programme focus, especially in the area of capacity building and e-activism. This is justified by the fact that, « Not For Fathers Only » e-newsletter will be launched in January 2009 to focus on men’s involvement activities with special focus on the regional snap shots. The MWG will also continue to contribute to the MSTF e-newsletter.
It was obvious from the look of issues during the GBPM that starting from 2007 the WABA Secretariat had been focusing on sowing the harvest for the new cycle and continues to do so by raising new funds for breastfeeding work to continue to meet the challenges.
Some of the key issues of concerns for 2008 and beyond brought up by the GBPM VII and which need addressing by the network at large are:
* corporate globalization and its negative impact on breastfeeding and optimal IYCF;
* commercial complementary and infant feeding ;
* public private partnerships (PPP) - why should the breastfeeding movement be concerned?
* reinvigorating UN initiatives especially the BFHI globally.
All CPs agreed that these issues are of concern and WABA icons developed position papers that were shared with the network representatives from the regions.

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