Yesterday I wrote a post about Save the Children’s new campaign on breastfeeding.
Today I’m absolutely thrilled to have a guest post on the blog from Tasya, an inspiring woman who works as the head of advocacy and legal division for an organisation in Indonesia called AIMI.
AIMI (the Indonesian Breastfeeding Mothers Assocation) is a group of mothers providing advice and support on breastfeeding through Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry Messenger. They provide a 24 hour hotline to support and educate women about the option of breastfeeding, and also use social media to gather evidence of marketing malpractices of breast milk substitutes, for example crowdsourcing photos of posters which break the breastfeeding marketing code of conduct.
In just 3 years AIMI has gone from a online support group set up online by 2 full time mums, to a group which runs in 8 provinces across Indonesia, working in partnership with Save the Children Indonesia. As well as their work online, they now provide offline support like breastfeeding classes and the training of breastfeeding counsellors. They’ve co-written recent joint reports with Save the Children, and are lobbying for the internationally agreed breast-milk marketing code of conduct to be respected.
Here is why Tasya became involved.
I had my first baby 7 years ago and there was such a lack of information about breast-feeding. At the time it used to be customary for babies to be separated from their Mums at birth to give them some rest. The hospital fed my baby formula during this time so by the time he came back to me he was already full. I really thought at this time that Indonesia needed more support for women who wanted to breastfeed, that we needed some kind of association so I was so pleased to become one of the founders of AIMI.
My background is in law – I used to work in a legal firm as a junior associate and left when my daughter was 4 as I wanted to try for a second child. Now I’m trying to bring my legal background to good use to campaign for better regulations in Indonesia and to ensure that companies market their breast milk substitute products responsibly.
We use Indonesia’s love affair with social media to our advantage – we’ve got a twitter hotline and email where people can send in photos of what they think is inappropriate marketing activity.
But it’s still tough. I’ve wanted AIMI to try and do a class action but to do that we need to get lots of midwives together to testify. There are two big problems with this: it’s expensive, and in Indonesia people are often afraid to speak up. They report things to me but are afraid to go through the legal process. But, I’m still looking for a test case for us to do and will keep on with that search.
If it’s hard to make some formula companies obey laws then our other angle is to empower women so that they know what is their right, that they don’t have to feed their babies formula and that there is support out there for them.
Our own government has calculated that 30,000 babies’ lives in Indonesia could be saved every year if they were breast-fed for the first six months of their life. That’s why we do what we do at AIMI, and why I’ll keep looking for this test case, because of all those tiny lives that could be saved.