Thursday, July 30, 2009


By Yvonne Bekeny in Finland
Breastfeeding in general and exclusive breastfeeding in particular has been a natural practice in Finland for several years. The importance of breastfeeding is emphasized by health care staff, and families benefit a lot from this practice because of the welfare services provided by the state in addition to the gender sensitive approaches to child care. A look at two generations of parents in Finland reveals that like in most western countries, breastfeeding was not an issue or “fashioned as being sexy” some 25 years ago. I interviewed parents of two different generations in Finland to learn about how breastfeeding evolved and how fathers supported the mothers who breastfed.
Liisa is 53 years old and breastfed her two grown up children.
“Breastfeeding was not common and was not strongly supported by the health personnel 25 years ago. I breastfed my children because I felt that it was natural and I did that exclusively for six months before introducing liquids and soft food. I had so much milk that I extracted and donated to the hospital because milk banks in Finland generated income for women who gave some of their breastmilk to the hospitals to assist working mothers or others who had problems breastfeeding their babies. Hospitals made it easier by having health personnel go around from home to home to collect the milk for their first food banks. During the periods I breastfed our babies, my husband was totally supportive and helped me with house chores and carrying the baby sometimes so I can rest. He learnt how to change the diapers at night and assist me too with this task. Indeed, it was just a total agreement between my partner and me to have the children breastfed and to do it well”.
Sirpa is 53 years old and nurtured her two grown up children now aged 33 and 25.
Sirpa said, in her case, breastfeeding was very much a mothers business and her personal decision because it was not emphasized in their days like today. In her words, “To me, it was a burden because I did not get any support from my husband.” It was a religious and legalistic burden on women because the state and the church did not provide any kind of support to women in those days. The state and religious organisation considered that it was the right of the child, that a mother should breastfeed her baby. Many did not see how men could be associated to the task of breastfeed.
Annette is 23 years old and a first-time mother. Her baby is two years old already
“I did exclusive breastfeeding for four months before introducing water and supplementary food. However, I continued mixed feeding until our son was 11 months old. My husband was extremely supportive. He did the house chores and this permitted me to have enough time to breastfeed. My partner took the baby and padded him after breastfeeding and this help as father attachment to the baby. He gave me a lot of psychological support and I think most of my friends get that kind of support from their partners too”.
Matti is a 24 year-old first-time father and husband of is Annette
Matti during the conversation with Yvonne gave the reason why he supported Annette. “I supported Annette because I thought that our baby will benefit a lot from breastfeeding. I would give her pillows during the process for her to seat comfortably. I helped to make the place comfortable for her so that both mother and baby were in comfortable positions during the process. I used to get food for her because I knew that she needed to eat well to be able to breastfeed well too. I generally took care of her and made life easy for her. I tried to give her all the psychological support because it was tough for both of us. I did the house chores so she could have much time to rest”. This kept us closer in the interest of our baby boy.
Jessica is 25 year- old mother of two children aged 7 and 6 years already.
Jessica got her babies when “Breastfeeding was already quite common. “My husband was very helpful and did the house tasks, changing the babies’ diapers at night. Unfortunately, I had some allergies, so I could not practise exclusive breastfeeding completely. For this reason, my husband and I decided to introduce other foods quite early enough for the baby not to loss weight and my partner helped in preparing food for the babies too”.
Tiina is 31 years old has 3 children who are aged 7, 6 and 3.
The first two babies of Tiina were born with a difference of just one year. In Tiina’s words, “I got very good support from my husband although he didn’t stay up at night to help change the diapers. I used to have much milk and donated some to the hospital. My partner helped me in doing the extraction and because of his total support, we were able to breastfeed all three children exclusively for 1 year each before continuing with mixed feeding. Our first baby was breastfed for 14 months, the second for 20 months and the third for 29 months and this was thanks to the support I got from their father”.
The above interviews were conducted on Sunday, 3rd of May, 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009


By James Achanyi-Fontem,
Coordinator-WABA Men’s Initiative
The 5th annual WABA-FIAN joint gender training workshop ended in New Delhi, India on 9th July 2009. The training was delivered by two experts in gender promotion strategies from India and Malaysia, Renu Khanna and Paul Sinnappan with the coordination of leader- icon brains of the two international networks, Sarah Amin, Co-Director of WABA and Flavio Valente, Secretary General of FIAN.
The joint training workshop aimed at enabling some 29 advocates from the breastfeeding and food rights networks to raise awareness and sensitivity on gender issues. Resource persons for lectures and conducting exchange sessions focused on the gender challenges to breastfeeding and food rights issues. WABA and IBFAN Africa supported 12 persons involved in the breastfeeding protection, promotion and support movement in their regions.
On the first day of the international workshop, the principal trainer, Renu Khana, invited the participants’ patience because the workshop was not going to get into the intricacies of gender and theory due to the short period accorded for the transfer of knowledge. She added that 30% of the course at the beginning was dedicated to getting participants know themselves as this is vital for planting the seeds of gender. That is why a welcome dinner was programmed on the evening of the workshop first day on July 6.
On the second day, the participants exploited the application of gender in all aspects of their work. This included what gender meant for the breastfeeding movement as initiated and promoted by WABA. Towards the end of the training, working with men was introduced as a special aspect with relevance to gender promotion.
To introduce the participants into the core of the issue, Renu Khanna, Paul Sinnappan and Flavio Valente led the selected human right activists to focusing on gender in the larger context that takes into consideration the situation of the environment, cultures, political and socio-economic reflections. To achieve this, gender analysis was done in line with the right to food and gender mainstreaming. Before the end of the course, participants were guided on how to apply the ideas exchanged within the four days in the conception of a plan of action.
Two strategic plans of action were conceived that cover activities in the areas of gender and breastfeeding with gender to the rights to food. To better understand the issue of gender, Renu Khanna talked about what it is and what it is not. This was better understood when the attitudes of the male and female were described considering their natural and structural build ups.
The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, WABA and the Food First Information and Action Network, FIAN, expected the participants to be well sensitized on the concept of gender and gender mainstreaming, after equipping them with tools and skills of gender analysis by the end of the course. The course participants should be able to enable others in their respective regions and countries in the development of gender analysis of breastfeeding and rights to adequate food after the training in their respective regions and countries now.
Participants returned with resource materials for the application of gender concepts and the development of gender sensitive strategies and work plans. Within the context of the training, participants learnt about how to differentiate between sex and gender, recall dimensions of gender as a system enumerate and list gender aspects of breastfeeding and rights to adequate food. The men and women were able to list men’s role and responsibilities in appropriate infant feeding and promotion of rights to adequate food by the end of the training.
Issues treated within the period of the workshop included gender and sex, gender as a system, gender aspects of breastfeeding and rights to adequate food, gender analysis frameworks, economic and political contexts of women, men’s involvement, role and responsibilities, gender mainstreaming and gender indicators. The participatory training methodologies included exercises, games, group discussions and presentations, role plays, experience sharing by participants and others.
Renu Khanna has a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the faculty of management studies from Delhi University, India with over 25 years of experience in health care management and organizational development in health.
Paul Sinnappan has for the past 10 years been involved in conducting gender training for men in the credit unions, cooperatives, micro credit programmes and non-governmental organizations, NGOs, in Malaysia and South East Asia.
The joint WABA-FIAN gender training workshop initiative began several years back in 2004 with the introduction of gender concerns by the donor agency, the Canadian Cooperative Association, CCA. Since then, the International Cooperative Association, ICA; the Asian Confederation of Credit Unions, ACCU, and the Asian Women in Cooperative Development Forum, AWCF have become partners in the process of integrating gender in cooperatives in Asia and Pacific region.
Other impact resource persons for the training were Flavio Valente of FIAN International from Heldelberg, Germany and Laskshmi Menon from the Association for consumers’ Action on Safety and Health Centre, ACASH, in Mumbai, India. Lakshmi is a consultant to WABA and was also the former co-coordinator of WABA’s Gender Working Group.
WABA’s gender programme goals include:
1.The promotion of gender awareness among breastfeeding advocates and mainstreaming of the gender perspective in breastfeeding advocacy and programmes.
2.The promotion of collaboration between the breastfeeding movement and the women’s movement, in order to strengthen the common advocacy goals of both movements; and to undertake joint advocacy, education and training on women’s rights, health and breastfeeding.
3.To increase participation of men in domestic work, child care and provide breastfeeding support, to raise men’s awareness on women’s rights and reproductive health issues.
For more information, click on the following link - or