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1999 LLLI Conference Sessions:
Keynote Address for the 16th La Leche League International Conference

Presented by Anwar Fazal
Chairman, World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 16 No. 5, September-October 1999, p. 162

As-salam-alai-kum, which means peace be upon you. I like to begin with the word peace because more than anything else it says it all about our work. Peace has three dimensions:

  • peace within ourselves
  • peace with other people
  • peace with the earth.
Today, the world is far from this peace. Tensions and conflicts challenge us and painfully inflict damage to us in many ways and in so many places.

Yet in so many places and in so many ways, people are seeking peace. I once heard a delightful song, a melody of warmth, of friendship, and of power. The song went, "We are one and we are many, and we share the same dream."

That could be the song of all of us. We are one but we are many, too. And we share the same dream.

What is that dream? It is a simple one - to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding everywhere.

When I think of the joy and power of breastfeeding, I think of a beautiful flower with five petals - representing sound nutrition, life saving medicines, rational economics, responsible ecology, and deep love.

The grim reality today is that in so many ways and in so many places, humankind is engaged in paths that are destructive, in paths that are unsustainable.

Nowhere has it been as starkly cruel and more destructive in history than in the way breastfeeding has been subverted and undermined in this century.

But now the people are fighting back everywhere to reclaim their first right, their first food - breast milk. They are fighting back the evil of subversion and killing of a natural, God given special start in life.

Millions of mothers are discovering and rediscovering the joy and power of breastfeeding. Thousands of hospitals are dedicating themselves to being "baby-friendly" - the United Nations stamp for hospitals that care for breastfeeding.

I'd like to share with you three challenges that are central to this struggle for our first right and first food.

The first is the challenge of Vision. We have learnt that to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding, we must engage in a vision that ensures the human right and responsibility to food security, to good health, and to a safe environment.

Only with the larger holistic vision can we overcome the curse of greed and violence, of materialism and mass destruction. James Robertson once said this memorably. He said that we must move from a "HE" society to a "SHE" society. "HE" stood for "Hyper Exploitative" and "SHE" for "Sane, Humanistic, and Ecological."

The second challenge is that of Information. Information is power and those who promote greed and violence have learnt to control and manipulate this in mega and diverse ways. We must engage in the real democratization of information by building on both community-based capabilities and the power of the new information technologies.

The third challenge is that of Networking. Today is the age of the networks that bring together nomads, bureaucracies, and hierarchies into inclusive cumulative networks that can flow and engage laterally and vertically, locally and globally. Today public interest networks are making the most dramatic possibilities for social transformation.

WABA, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, and La Leche League together symbolize such "new age" organizations where the synergy, small and big, local and global, special interest or broad-based can act together and make things happen.

Let us -dedicate ourselves this week to build our future by:

  • promoting the joy and power of breastfeeding
  • promoting the culture of peace
  • building the solidarity of family and community
  • promoting the first right, the first food - breast milk, a gift of nature, gift of power, a gift of love, and a gift of God.
Let us also dedicate ourselves to exposing those large corporations that continue to undermine breastfeeding if not overtly, then covertly. By such unconscionable behavior, they subvert one of the fundamentals of healthy and civilized society.

La Leche League and WABA are forces for happiness. Let us work together to enlarge this happiness.

Remember the song, "We are one, but we are many, and we share the same dream."

Working together we will make that dream of protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding come true for more and more people. Let the wisdom of the past continue to be the gold standard for the future.

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