Cultures around the World

Eradicating Polio in South Sudan

My mother was around 11 years old when she got sick with what they thought was the flu or some similar illness. During the course of the illness, she got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and fell to the floor. She would never walk again without the aid of a crutch and a brace. She was separated from her family for months while she was treated for polio during the epidemic that swept the country. Today, she has some signs of post-polio syndrome. Daily chores are made more difficult; walking is not easy. She’s an amazing woman and has taken on this disability with pride and dignity. As I think about my own child, I would be devestated to watch her go through the same experience. I would not wish such a disease on any child, in any country, especially when we have the medical knowledge to take action.

Save the Children http://www.savethechildren.org is an organization dedicated to bettering the lives of children around the globe. This is one of their actions.

—-Christina

South Sudan: The Long Trek to Eradicate Polio

http://www.savethechildren.ca/everyone/blog/#womensday

Volunteers across South Sudan are battling to eradicate polio among children under five in South Sudan, through a five-day “house to house” campaign. The campaign is organized by the South Sudan health ministry, and Save the Children is supporting it by lending vehicles and in Mvolo county. The effort is to catch the children who have not been vaccinated at a health centre or through an outreach program.

Delivering polio vaccinations

To ensure that children get the two drops each of the polio vaccine, vaccinators must walk for long distances, where they find families eagerly waiting for them. Villages are far apart and roads are very poor, so vaccinators have to trek long distances between each village on foot or by bicycle. In Mvolo, Western Equatoria state, the mobile immunization team shared their experience with me, of conducting house-to-house immunization in the county.

Immunization and access

“It is difficult for us to achieve full immunization here in Mvolo County, because there is a big population that stays deep in the rural areas. They’re not easily accessible. In Lessi Payam, five of the villages are not reachable and this is a big challenge for us,” said County Health Officer William Dalli.

“I have no bicycle to move around when I am carrying out the immunization, so I move on foot. It is very far because the families live far apart and I have to go to each family,” Asumpta Achol shares.

Those who have bicycles face challenges too: “I use my own bicycle, but when it breaks down, it becomes difficult for me to move. Even with the bicycle I get tired when I ride for the whole day,” says Manase Dogbanda.

Final push to eliminate crippling disease

Save the Children conducts vaccination against polio, measles and tetanus on a regular basis both at health facilities and in outreach programs. We also provide support to the annual nationwide immunization campaign, alongside World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF. South Sudan is one of few remaining countries that still has a serious polio problem and the disease has crippled many children.

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Kissing Kids on the Lips!

So lately there’s been a flurry of on-line activity on an attachment parenting forum that I follow around the issue of children kissing on their parents on the lips as a sign of affection. Most people are of the opinion that this is a personal choice that each family has the right to make and that the family should act according to its family rules, values, traditions and beliefs. To me this is the obvious response given that no one family is in a position to tell another family how to act or behave, or what is right or wrong.

One mother’s answer, however, resonated with me quite strongly. She stated the following:

“I have been thinking about this for 3-4 days now before I responded, trying to be sensitive to other cultures and other ideas. I have thought it over, but in the end, I am just plain sad. I can’t say it any other way. I am sad and disappointed that other kids can’t kiss their parents on the lips if they really want to. This seems VERY awkward to me. WHY is this not ok? How is this so different than the cheek? Really analyze that…cheek vs. lips…why does it matter?

What I worry about is that the kid gets to see you freely kissing your partner/spouse on the lips, but they are forbidden from doing so. Thus, for me, this translates into “You, young child are something different, you must NOT kiss me on the lips, you don’t deserve it, you are not worthy, it is some kind of special something reserved for ______. Reserved for WHAT??? For me, this feels essentially that this kissing on the lips action (in a child’s mind) is BAD.

So, kids can’t achieve this worthiness until they are mature…dare I day “sexually ready”? What kind of signal does THAT send? I don’t want to equate romantic kissing with sexual readiness. I think exploring is good and healthy…if my girls can’t be comfortable here with us, where CAN they be comfortable to explore?

I get that this is a culturally relevant issue. I live in a white, American culture that is rather stuffy and we work hard to overcome that. Maybe too much so. I don’t know. What I do know is that we kiss our kids freely on the lips every day and they do so to us without hesitation and we don’t want that to change that at all.”

I thought that this was a balanced perspective which brings in the idea that the EuroAmerican culture traditionally eschews physical affection and physical touch creating a forbidden fruit type of culture. The idea of the naked body in the U.S. is much more taboo compared to other cultures to the point that we cover our children up long before children in other countries are expected to wear bathing suits in public. Isn’t it healthy for children to be able to run around without clothes and to normalize the naked body? By covering our children up so young, the naked body is over sexualized and glimpsing a naked breast is equated to the consumption of pornography. (This ties in, of course, with the current issue of women breastfeeding in public.)

As a woman who grew up without ever seeing her parents kiss in public and showing very little physical affection, I find it comforting to know that other families are also trying to change the generational taboo of physical affection and touch. Granted, I realize that in certain cultures, such as the Muslim culture, this may not be an acceptable practice; however, I am not raising my child in a Muslim culture. I am raising her here, in the U.S., in a different country with its own level of conservative beliefs and I will continue to foster a sense of comfort with love, touch, affection and kissing on the lips, as long as she is comfortable with this act.

Many thanks to the mom from the forum who granted me permission to quote her post. It takes a village to educate a nation.

Related Posts:
Breastfeeding is Universal  (www.singlemomontherun.com)
Attachment Parenting is Not a Four Letter Word (www.singlemomontherun.com)

Breastfeeding Around the Globe: It’s Time the U.S. Caught up with the Rest of the World

A beautiful breastfeeding photo from the Xingu region of Brazil. Source: fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net via Kate on Pinterest

Breastfeeding in public is not a novel concept. It’s covering up and hiding the act that is a recent development. Here are some anecdotal insights into breastfeeding around the world.

For instance, did you know that: 

  • In Iran, “Even though women are forced to wear head covering in public, people breastfeed everywhere in public and it is considered not a sexual act. Similarly women breastfeed in front of their family members and friends openly.”
  • Ghana is a very conservative country, yet women breastfeed “without cover and without shame.”
  • In Ghana, If you don’t breastfeed your baby in public when it cries people will think the baby is not yours.
  • In Egypt “Not breastfeeding is sometimes frowned upon.”
  • In Ghana, “Bottlefeeding is for orphans, babies whose mothers cannot produce enough milk, upper class wannabes and expatriates. Ghanaian women breastfeed – everywhere and anywhere.” And that “…this is not the ‘Africans run around naked’ thing. There are very high levels of decency and even tight pants are frowned upon. But your baby’s gotta eat!”
  • In Kenya, “Breastfeeding in public is normal” and that “Breasts, especially of a nursing mother, are not regarded as sexual.”
  • In Kenya, Breastfeeding until 2 years old is quite common.
  • In Liberia, “People don’t have problem with mothers breastfeeding their kids anywhere in public. Mothers breastfeed wherever the baby request for food, they feed him/she to be satisfy. Our babies Mother don’t have problem of breastfeeding their in public.” They are proud of the fact that they are a mother.
  • In China “Breastfeeding is viewed as a positive thing, and breastfeeding in public is fine.”

As I mentioned, we (meaning those of us in the U.S. that feel that breastfeeding women need to hide in the bathroom) really need to catch up with the rest of the world. Economic and technological advancment should not result in behaviors that are actually backwards in movement. Sexualizing the breast to the point that feeding your child in public or in uniform, be it military or otherwise, is discouraged and looked upon in disdain is a social, ethical and moral crime.

For more anecdotes on breastfeeding around the world, visit http://www.007b.com/public-breastfeeding-world.php

Related Posts:
Kissing Kids on the Lips (www.singlemomontherun.com)
What is a Doula and Why Do I Need One? (www.singlemomontherun.com)
The Power of Breastmilk: Kills HIV Virus! (www.singlemomontherun.com)