by Elaine Chow, BMSG President
BMSG has officially become an affiliate member of IBFAN Asia!
We first encountered IBFAN (International Baby Food Action Network) last year, in 2017, when we were invited to their meeting/workshop in Hong Kong. Khatim and myself (previously Board Members, currently President and Vice-President) went for it, representing BMSG and Singapore there (Singapore was previously only represented in IBFAN by Cynthia Pang from the Association of Breastfeeding Advocacy, Singapore). It was an inspiring experience to have met breastfeeding advocates from around Asia, so I was excited and honoured again to be invited again this year.
This year’s meeting had a dual objective – a strategic planning session, and a General Assembly (GA) meeting. Because we had to vote for our regional representatives at the GA, BMSG was invited to formally affiliate ourselves with IBFAN – and I was more than happy to put my signature on the form on behalf of BMSG.
Unlike the last meeting I had attended, which only had representatives from East and Southeast Asia, this meeting had representatives from countries from all three subregions of IBFAN Asia – from Maldives and Bhutan, to Mongolia and even Timor Leste! It was such an eye-opening experience for me to hear from breastfeeding advocates in these nations.
What was interesting for me to note was that not everyone was a lactation consultant or even involved in breastfeeding work. Some were government officials in charge of infant nutrition programmes, others were from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) advocating for the health of women and children. There was even one who was an advocate for consumer rights! The most unexpected part for me was having men in our group.
During the 3-day strategic workshop, we delegates, guided by an external facilitator, looked at the work of IBFAN Asia and its member groups, and talked about how we can do better. There was a lot of talk about fund-raising, and also ideas for more regional collaboration. These are still just ideas for now, but I look forward to being a part of the team to bring these ideas to fruition.
On a personal note, I had brought my 19 month-old son along with me for the trip, and I was so touched by how welcome the others made us feel. They happily accepted all his toddler antics, and even helped me make the space more child-friendly. To me, that is the great thing about working alongside other parents.
At the end of it, it struck me to realise that I am now a part of an international non-governmental organisation, albeit a very very small part. It was a good reminder to me that each of us, no matter where we are in life, have the chance to make an impact on the world around us.