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Extending our Reach through Cooperative Action

from LEAVEN, Vol. 33 No. 5, October-November 1997, p. 116
by Cindy Smith, Chairman, LLLI Board of Directors

Dear LLLI,

As an LLL member and donor, I have some concerns about La Leche League's involvement with certain groups. LLL has always been an inspiration and a refuge for me in my 15 years of mothering. I sincerely appreciate its support of breastfeeding and mothering. My concerns are related to LLLI's involvement with USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and UNICFF (United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund). Being of firm pro-life conviction, I would like a clarification on the extent of LLLI's association with these two groups. USAID and UNICEF promote contraception and abortion. Please explain LLLI's relations with these groups and specify if LLL funds are used for these groups.

Sincerely,

Angela J. Esker
Teutopolis, Illinois, USA

Dear Angela,

Thank you for your support of La Leche League as a member and donor. It is wonderful to hear how being a part of LLL has contributed to your mothering and that you are willing to invest in LLL for the mothers of the future through your donations.

You asked for clarification of LLL's relationship with USAID and UNICEF. As an international, nongovernmental organization with Leaders in 66 countries, LLLI is recognized as an authority on both breastfeeding and mother-to-mother support. This recognition of our expertise has resulted in opportunities to disseminate accurate breastfeeding information to health professionals, other nongovernmental organizations, governments, international agencies and the general public. This has been done is a number of ways, from the local LLL Group and its presence in a community to working with international agencies such as USAID and UNICEF.

In 198l, LLLI acquired consultative status with UNICEF. In that capacity, we serve as a member of the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Committee and chaired the Nutrition Working Group for many years. We used this position to increase awareness in the international community of the importance of breastfeeding by submitting statements to UN-sponsored meetings such as the Earth Summit in 1992 and the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China in 1995. LLLI's specific expertise in breastfeeding and our presence at these events has been pivotal in the development of a commitment to breastfeeding on a global level.

Also, in various countries around the world, local UNICFF organizations have contributed financially to LLL activities such as the translation and printing of LLL materials as well as support of local meetings and seminars for both Leaders and health professionals.

In 1995, LLLI was invited to provide its expertise to a USAID-funded project in Guatemala City that studied the growth and sustainability of mother-to-mother support groups in low-income areas. LLL of Guatemala was central to the success of this project and, because of it, more mothers are breastfeeding and more babies are thriving on their mother's milk.

The success of this project caused USAID to look more closely at its own activities in support of breastfeeding and child health. The end result is the LINKAGES program which works in the international community to promote and extend breastfeeding as a vehicle to improve maternal/child health and optimize natural child spacing by improving breastfeeding practices. This program is very compatible with LLLI's purpose and very much in line with LLLI's expertise in mother-to-mother support.

Participating in coperative action or receiving a grant does not mean that LLLI "aligns itself" with the organization or agency. It means that LLLI sees this as an opportunity to promote our mission in communities we might not have been able to reach otherwise. The cooperation benefits us in two ways: it furthers our mission and provides us with financial support.

Our relationship with these organizations does not constitute an endorsement of the organizations themselves or their other programs. Our single area of expertise is breastfeeding. Our role is to ensure the topic of breastfeeding remains "on the table," not brushed under it, and to provide our technical expertise and guidance so that every baby around the world has the opportunity to be breastfed.

Over the years, LLL's accomplishments have been a direct result of our single focus. No other causes, no matter how noble, just or true, can be allowed to dilute our dedication to the accomplishment of our purpose: to help mothers learn how to breastfeed their babies; to encourage mothering through breastfeeding; and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding around the world.

Thank you for the opportunity to address your questions.

Sincerely.

Cindy Smith, Chairman
LLLI Board of Directors

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