The Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute(CGBI), also recognized as the Carolina Breastfeeding Institute, in the MCH Department, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is dedicated to enabling every mother to choose and succeed in optimal infant feeding - exclusive breastfeeding - and optimal young child feeding.
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As we 'celebrate' international women's day, so many images come to mind from the last 45 years of active work on women's issues: women uniting in song and purpose, young women arm- in-arm on their way to school, women nurturing thier children... and their parents, women active in family and social lives, women just being happy to be who they are, women strong and standing tall - proud of being all that a woman can be - including being a daughter, sister, life partner, and parent with all the good that these may entail.
But many of the images that come to mind are not pretty.
Yes, we have improved on some fronts: more women receive closer to equal pay in western countries, for the moment more women are out of purdah, and some imporvements have been made in some parts of the world on the abominable situation in terms of reproductive health. In todays Huffington Post, Susan Blaustein nicely covers the potention of the Millennium Cities Initiaitve (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-m-blaustein/fasttracking-womens-empow_b_832378.html). The problem is that these cities are few and far between. Further, it is not clear that the support planned or offered has actually been developed by the women of those cities.
What do women want?
My guess is that there are many answers to that question as there are women in the world, so please allow me to share what I have observed over these many years. Women worldwide want the same basics as men: food, shelter, clothing, safety, and a chance to be part of their community, to contribute, and to maintain and/or improve their lot in life.
Many years ago, I offered a session at the International Women's Conference on "Women as Women: Not women as men." the concept was to support and celebrate uniquely female attributes and functions: menarche, pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, etc. While it was given a place in the pre-conference, the conference itself carefully avoided such things...preferring to discuss workplace and war. Certainly, as more than half of the world, women are heavily involved and impacted by these two conditions, and they should be addressed. But - what about women as women?
Today, on the International Women's Day, I yearn for the image of each woman being supported to be herself inside the skin of a woman - to have the ability to produce the next generation, to be hormonally wired for nurturing, to have her face in the sun, to be strong and productive and intelligent contributors with a insy-beensy special twist that is part of being a woman. And if we celebrate women in this manner, how can we tolerate lack of girl's education, isolation from the life-saving vitamin D rays of the sun and a fair share of food, fear of violance provoked simply because they are female, rarity of freely available quality reproductive health services, scarcity of paid maternity leave for maternal recovery and for breastfeeding the next generation, active exclusion of women's roles from economic modelling, and so on and so on?
We may have come a long way, baby, but we sure have a long way still to go....
With warm wishes to all of you out there, women and men, who are fighting the good fight for both equality and celebration of the special uniqueness of women and men in our world, your faithful servant, Miriam