NGO’s Campaign to Promote Breast-feeding Shows Results
In the 1970s and 1980s, India was witnessing a decline in breastfeeding of infants. Increasing urbanisation and industrialisation, along with a global campaign by large commercial enterprises to encourage switch over to bottle-feeding as a more convenient and healthy option, were at the root of this change. However, research has shown otherwise. Hence, countering the large marketing and advertising budgets of commercial entities promoting bottle-feeding became a stupendous task. This was the rationale for Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI).
 
BPNI was born as a recommendation of the workshop on “Recent Advances in Human Lactation and Breastfeeding Management at Wardha, India” organised by ACASH (Association for Consumers Action on Safety and Health), FOGSI (Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecological Society of India) and IAP ([Indian Academy of Pediatrics), in 1991. Over the past 25 years, the impact of this organisation, and its relentless advocacy, is beginning to yield results. There is now widespread awareness in India about the fact that breastfeeding is a healthier and better choice for all babies. 
 
An achievement for BPNI was the enactment of the Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles, and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act 1992 and Amendment Act 2003 (IMS Act). Arjun Singh, late human resources development minister, had said in this context: “Inappropriate feeding practices lead to infant malnutrition, morbidity and mortality in our children. Promotion of infant milk substitutes and related products like feeding bottles and teats do constitute a health hazard. Promotion of infant milk substitutes and related products has been more extensive and pervasive than the dissemination of information concerning the advantages of mother’s milk and breastfeeding and contributes to decline in breastfeeding.”
 
Several non-government organisations (NGOs) and doctors had been conducting training and awareness sessions, since 1981, to ensure that breastfeeding remains the first and best choice. In 1991, a training of trainers (ToT) programme was organised. It was during this TOT that BPNI was born. Many participants became BPNI’s founders and co-founders. Dr Arun Gupta, central coordinator of BPNI, recalls, “Out of the group, four members were active and enthusiastic supporters of the cause. These were: Dr RK Anand, Dr NB Kumta, Dr Tarsem Jindal and I. We pooled Rs1,000 each to start BPNI which was legally registered in July 1992.”
 
Protecting breastfeeding from commercial actors is BPNI’s forte. It has no hesitation in taking on powerful multinationals that are at the forefront of high-powered campaigns to hard-sell instant formulas and powder milk to new mothers.
 
Challenging their might is not for the fainthearted. BPNI is continuously monitoring what these baby food companies are doing and reports to media and government. It shares these with other professional agencies to let them know what they are doing. “Very recently, we have come up with a phone app that can be used by people to detect these promotional tactics of companies and report to BPNI. It is named ‘Stanpan Suraksha’ on Google Play and IOS,” a proud Dr Gupta pointed out.
 
When asked about the challenges faced by BPNI, Dr Gupta said, “Lack of funds and sustainability are the biggest challenges. Also, BPNI does not have an office of its own and monthly rental is quite a major cost to it. BPNI has been relying on donors and the government; it does not take money from commercial sources. This is our ethical policy. We have not gone to individuals. If someone out there could donate a space of 2,000sq ft in Delhi, it could be a huge help for us, and if individuals help us with recurrent donations to fight for this social cause, it would probably sustain BPNI.” BPNI has been dependent mainly on international funding agencies and United Nations organisations. Its conventional donors are governments of Sweden and Norway.
 
BPNI is registered as a society under the Societies Registration Act and also under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act. Donations to BPNI are eligible for tax exemption under Section 80G of the Income-tax Act, 1961.
 
Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI)
BP-33, Pitampura, 
New Delhi-110034
Tel: +91-11-42683059, 27343608,
Fax: +91-11-27343606
Website: www.bpni.org

 

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COMMENTS

Meenal Mamdani

2 years ago

I have great admiration for this organization that took on this daunting task and made a success of it.
I recently came across one down side of this practice. Along with an NGO I was trying to study the reasons for malnutrition in children under 2yrs. What we found was that the mothers would exclusively breast feed until the child was almost 18 months. Invariably the children would be in Grade 1 malnutrition range. We repeatedly advised the mothers to supplement breast feeding from 6 months onward with soft foods like rice, dal, fruits, etc. But the grandmothers declined saying that they had grown up the same way and there was no need to adopt new fangled things. Our pointing out the stunting which results from this practice made no difference.
I would request this organization to include advice re supplementation of breast feeding to prevent malnutrition.

Gamal Nasser

2 years ago

My attempts to subscribe to your magazene repeatedly failed after entering debit card details , can you check it , or else please publish your magazene in Amazon or Google books.

Arun Gupta

2 years ago

Thanks for this wonderful story

A Social Revolution through Classical Dance
With over 30,000 graduates, 10,000 classical dance performances, audiences in 97 countries and a vibrant performing arts environment, Darpana Academy of Performing Arts is a centre for artists committed to excellence, innovation and the excitement of using the arts for change. Darpana is one of India’s oldest performing arts institutions, not only in Gujarat but in the country. It has a beautiful campus on the banks of the Sabarmati River, only a mile away from Mahatma Gandhi’s famous Ashram. Mrinalini Sarabhai, the legendary Bharata Natyam dancer and founder of Darpana who passed away on 21st January 2016, wrote, “When Darpana was founded, it was regarded as a cultural oddity and a curiosity in this industrial city of Ahmedabad where artistic activity had hardly any place. But my husband, Vikram, kept telling me that someday Darpana would have a strong influence in Gujarat.”  The early scepticism about Darpana, way back in 1949, transformed into an awakening, as the organisation grew from strength to strength and also diversified its activities to work for change in society through dance and the arts. Mrinalini Sarabhai, in a radical departure from the spiritual core of classical Bharata Natyam, used the dance style to depict the horror of dowry violence.
 
In 1977, Mallika Sarabhai took over as Darpana’s honorary director and accelerated its growth. In 1980, Darpana for Development was established to focus attention on changing behaviour through the arts. Government departments, ministries and other non-government agencies began partnering with Darpana to educate the public in issues of health, education and empowering women. 
 
For instance, Darpana’s puppeteers worked with the ministry of rural development to teach rural women the benefits of using a smokeless stove. The theatre department created a play called Ma to rally people to educate and transform the masses. Over the years, two departments were established to focus on the work of using the arts for change. 
 
In 2009, the Citizen Resource and Action Initiatives was formed to provide practical guidance to citizens on law, to help them fight their own battles; they were also trained to use the Right to Information Act, to solve problems and get justice. 
 
During the past 30 years, Darpana has reached 12.5 million people. “Through the use of television and film, theatrical and street performances, quizzes and debates, puppets and board games, we have been able to effectively talk about a range of sensitive issues,” says a Darpana spokesperson. It organises workshops and runs short- and long-term courses for people, including children, on topics ranging from martial arts to puppetry, mask-making, painting and folk dancing. 
 
Darpana’s library is a resource centre for students and contains materials on all forms of dance, drama, literature and other art forms, from around the world. It houses 10,000 volumes and has an impressive collection of arts-related periodicals and videos. In 2014, Revanta Sarabhai took charge of the conservatory, to revitalise it. While Darpana has been producing accomplished dancers, others can also come to the Academy and perform. In 1994, Darpana’s amphitheatre Natarani, a state-of-the-art venue, came into existence and provides local audiences the opportunity to see world-class performances while also providing an important platform to artists. Natarani presents close to 80 events every year, including dance performances, concerts, plays, arts festivals and film screenings. Darpana’s audiences range from arts-lovers to people in positions of power, the less privileged, children, women, tribal populations and more. Darpana is known around the world as a centre of innovation in the arts.
 
Darpana is an institution run under The Karmakshetra Educational Foundation, a public charitable trust, registered under the Bombay Public Trust Act 1950. Readers’ donations are welcome and are exempt under Section 80G of the Income-tax Act.
 
Darpana Academy of Performing Arts
Usmanpura,
Ahmedabad 380013 
Gujarat
Telephone: (079)27551389

 

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Udyogvardhini Is Creating Entrepreneurs in Solapur
Will women apply for jobs, or will they remain housewives and always dependent? Neither; if Udyogvardhini of Solapur has its way. This is an NGO that helps and trains women to become entrepreneurs through self-help groups. It is the brainchild of Chandrika Chauhan, an award-winning entrepreneur, politician and an amazing success story in her personal life. 
 
Chandrika was born and brought up in Ahmedabad in a family that was almost illiterate. She moved to Solapur after marriage to Shambhu Singh Chouhan, who has dedicated his life for various nationalist voluntary organisations. Ms Chauhan, known as ‘bhabhiji’ to those who work with her, had to become the bread-winner of her family due to her husband’s frail health. For several years, she worked with a consumer forum and the Jankalyan Samiti. Soon she began to take up tailoring work and catering contracts with the help of women in her neighbourhood. This not only helped turn her into an entrepreneur, but also exposed her to the problems and hardships that women from lower-income groups faced in their domestic lives. Over time, she built a larger network and also helped women become entrepreneurs in their own right. 
 
The network that she built up, and the people she helped through her work, helped her enter politics. She was elected as a corporator and served the Solapur Municipal Corporation for two terms. 
 
In 2006, she gave her work a formal profile by starting Udyogvardhini initially aimed at making rural women independent. Catering is an important part of its activities and core strength. The organisation is famous for its ‘kadak bhakari’ which it has managed to market as a packed local speciality from Solapur. It also made a name for itself for being able to deliver large food orders (hygienically cooked and well-packed) or chapatis (unleavened bread). On one occasion, it produced a massive 100,000 chapatis for a mass wedding organised by the Lokmangal Foundation.
 
Under Ms Chauhan’s leadership, Udyogvardhini quickly expanded its activities to a range of activities including stitching, making cotton handbags, files, purses, shopping bags, etc; running beautician’s courses. Women are encouraged to explore business opportunities and trained in all these activities. The focus on women’s empowerment includes running adult literacy programmes and even teaching women to ride two-wheelers to become independent. In fact, women who are capable of turning entrepreneurs are specifically trained in activities such as buying raw materials, marketing, billing, taking orders, supplying finished products and even filing tax returns. 
 
Helping the old and needy through its old-age home and providing food to the destitute is also a part of its social activities. In an interesting experiment, it offered shelter to visually challenged girls and trained them to be self-sufficient. These girls were accommodated at the old-age home; many of them are now married and have moved away. Udyogvardhini aspires to set up a proper training centre to provide job-oriented training and also train self-help groups. It also plans to expand its old-age home and to set up an orphanage. 
 
Asked about the challenges that the organisation faces, Ms Chauhan’s team says, “Solapur is a labour-dominated town and the per capita income is low,” consequently, raising funds and getting donations from people is one of the biggest challenges. It has to find donors from large cities and attracting their attention to its work is no easy task. Due to lack of funds, Udyogvardhini is not able to employ trained staff, as salary is the main concern. But the NGO and its founder have seen innumerable awards and honours come their way and got support from the local government for its work. 
 
Readers who wish to donate to Udyogvardhini will get tax benefits under Section 80-G of the Income-tax Act. 
 
Udyogvardhini
157, South Kasaba,
Dutt Chowk, Solapur 413007
Maharashtra
Mobile: 09370066670, 9422069455
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