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UNICEF and Ministry of Health launch Guide on the Rights of Pregnant Women and their Babies

More than a publication, the Guide will be a capacity-building tool for multiplying agents, who will be able to disseminate key information to mothers, pregnant women and their families

Brasília, August 1st, 2011 – UNICEF and the Ministry of Health launched the Guide on the Rights of Pregnant Women and their Babies, which was developed under a partnership between the Ministry of Health and UNICEF to strengthen the capacity of mothers, pregnant women and their families to demand their rights.

The Guide was presented today by the Minister of Health, Alexandre Padilha, and by the UNICEF representative to Brazil, Marie-Pierre Poirier, at the national opening ceremony of the Global Breastfeeding Week (2011 GBW), held by the Ministry of Health in partnership with UNICEF and the Brazilian Pediatrics Society.

The Guide is part of the actions of the Cegonha (stork) Network, a program of Brazil’s federal administration, and of the UNICEF Municipal Seal of Approval in municipalities located in the Legal Amazon region, in the Brazilian semi-arid region and in low-income communities in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. More than a publication, the Guide will be a capacity-building tool for multiplying agents, who will be able to disseminate key information to communities and will build the capacity of actors of the Rights Assurance System and of society at large.

Through the UNICEF Municipal Seal of Approval, council members, community leaders, community health agents, and social work and media professionals will be trained to disseminate the Guide’s contents.

Illustrated by cartoonist Ziraldo, the Guide provides, in a simple and straightforward fashion, key information on the right to quality prenatal care, to humanized delivery, and to health care to newborns and their mothers, apart from information on laws in force.

The publication, prepared with the Editora Globo publishing house, was supported by RGE, a company of the CPFL Energia group.

Its objective is to contribute for society to become aware of and learn how to demand these rights, strengthening social control mechanisms and thus ensure the observance of rights provided for in the law and turned into public policies.

In the first phase of the initiative, 25,000 copies of the Guide will be distributed throughout the country.

“The decision of the Ministry of Health to take part in this rights-based initiative is daring and innovative. Through it, the government will strengthen social control mechanisms and the capacity of citizens to demand more universal and effective public policies," said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF representative to Brazil.

According to her, this initiative can spark a very positive cycle: by having their capacity to demand their rights strengthened, citizens can point out what’s working or not, helping the government to improve its services, which can generate positive changes in the health care system. It’s a feedback process that benefits not only the users of these services, but also strengthens the operational capacity of public managers.

UNICEF has developed similar materials designed to strengthen family competencies based on the same concept of “acting in networks” to disseminate information. The Guide, however, complements these actions by providing information to families on how to demand their rights as provided for in the Brazilian legal and normative framework.

2011 GBW - This year’s Global Breastfeeding Week, an initiative of the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), uses the slogan “Talk to me! Breastfeeding – a 3D Experience.”

Apart from the time (the period before pregnancy up till weaning) and location (one’s home, community, health care system, among others) dimensions, WABA draws attention to a third dimension – communications – and to the benefits that exchanging experiences and knowledge can generate in support of breastfeeding. The idea is to stress the importance of communications at various levels and between different sectors of society in support of breastfeeding.

Through this joint action, UNICEF believes that it is possible to ensure the rights of mothers, pregnant women, and their babies. For this reason, it supports the idea that society is responsible for ensuring the necessary conditions for mothers to breastfeed their babies, particularly until the age of six months, a period during which babies should be exclusively breastfed.

UNICEF believes that:

· Mothers still face many barriers to breastfeed their babies. The prejudice they can experience when breastfeeding in public and difficulties faced by them to reconcile work and breastfeeding schedules are some of the main barriers.

· Each one of us is responsible for ensuring that mothers can breastfeed their children appropriately, particularly until they are 6 months old. Merely disseminating or exchanging information on this right is not enough. We need to ensure the conditions for this right to be actually realized.

· All forms of prejudice against breastfeeding in public should be strongly fought by each one of us. Breastfeeding is an act that should generate solidarity rather than recrimination.

· Companies should respect the laws that ensure mothers at least 30-minute breaks at work twice a day to breastfeed their babies until the age of 6 months (Art. 396 of the Consolidated Labor Laws). These breaks can be negotiated with their supervisors and combined into one-hour breaks (Art. 396 of the Consolidated Labor Laws).

· Breastfeeding provides more than nutritional benefits to babies: it also has a high impact on their cognitive and affective development by strengthening their affective bonds with their mothers and ensuring the safety and protection they need in this phase of their lives.

For more information contact
Estela Caparelli, mecaparelli@unicef.org, 55 61 8166 1648, UNICEF Brazil
Pedro Ivo Alcantara, pialcantara@unicef.org, + 55 61 3035 1983, UNICEF Brazil
Tamar Hahn, thahn@unicef.org, + 507 3017485, UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean 

UNICEF is on the ground in over 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.


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