"A MOTHER’S love knows no boundaries, when she is empowered and supported, her potential is limitless."
In its four years, the "Modern Nanays of Mindanao" group has been standing with these words in its mission to provide mothers with healthy and economical alternatives to mother and child care.
Starting only as a small support group for mothers in Cagayan de Oro city, the non-profit organization grew to be one of the recent awardees of the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (TAYO) national award and the Georgina P. Nava Women Leadership Award.
It started in October 2012, when the organization's founder Nadine Angelica Gadia Casiño and some of her friends were pregnant with their first babies. As friends, they shared their first-time experiences and the numerous challenges that they faced during pregnancy.
Some of these problems include healthy food, child feeding, breast feeding. Struck with the differences in their ideas in addition to the lack of support from her health care provider, Casiño decided to form a support group of her own with advocacies centering on healthy baby-care methods such as breast feeding, baby wearing, and using cloth diapers.
"Unknown to many mothers and parents, the usage of cloth diapers and breast feeding aside from being economical are also healthy for their child. There just had to be an organization that will push this information to them. Because many mothers really do not know these," Casiño explained.
From a group of less than 50 mother-participants, the meet-ups organized by Casiño and some of her friends in the "Modern Nanays of Mindanao" grew to thousands in its fourth year. Annually, they arrange national programs where mothers can learn and take part such as the 'Great Cloth Diaper Change', the 'Hakab' and milk drives for lactating mothers.
The meet-ups went to cities of Iligan and Valencia.
"It is a great honor to have done this and to have had the opportunity to make a change in the communities about motherhood especially in our three main advocacies: breast feeding, cloth diapering, and baby wearing," Casiño said.
The 'Modern Nanays of Mindanao' are founded on changing the mindset of mothers and parents on social stigmas against breast feeding, cloth diapering, and baby wearing. Through their meet-ups, seminars, and national programs, they aim to share these ideas which they believe will not only cost mothers less but will help in the early nurture of their babies.
"As a member of the 'Modern Nanays of Mindanao' advocate of breast feeding, I really believe that mothers should be taught that breast feeding their babies in public places isn't wrong and that instead of making them hide in malls or anywhere else just to feed their child, why won't we provide lactation clinics in establishments and offices?," Rhyselle Descallar, a member of the organization, said.
Casiño explained that a lot of false an unnecessary campaigns have been done against the practice of breastfeeding. According to her, formula milk companies have argued for so long that their milk is better than what is naturally made by mothers and marketing funds for these branded milk have reached billions worldwide whereas programs supporting lactating mothers did not even reach half of this budget.
"Healthy nutrition starts in day one. When you die today, for example, many people would only look back on what you ate yesterday or a few years back but the thing is, these formula milk products have high fat content in them so basically you start storing in fat even before you reach a year old," Casiño explained.
This is why, according to her, they are helping mothers realize that breastfeeding is healthy for their child aside form it costing lesser than buying formula milk. Some of their advocacies for breastfeeding propels governments to install lactating clinics in almost every establishments to make breast feeding accessible to mothers. In addition, the "Modern Nanays of Mindanao" help women feed their babies with breastmilk by initiating milk drives and donating these to those who can't produce milk.
Another big focus of the organization is also advocating the use of cloth diapers instead of the commercially sold diapers in the supermarkets. Cloth diapers, Descallar explained will cost so much less than buying commercial diapers every week. These she added is environmentally helpful as it will never contribute to the diaper wastes.
"All you have to do with cloth diapers is to buy only enough for your baby's usage and then clean them like clothes. In fact, the cloth diaper that my baby has been using since she was a year old is still being used up till now. Imagine how much I saved in all those time instead of buying commercial baby diapers?" Decallar said.
"Modern Nanays of Mindanao" has suppliers of cloth diapers from other countries which they would gladly provide for interested member nanays. However, some nanay members and entrepreneurs in the country have already started weaving their own cloth diapers. The organization's program, the "Great Cloth Diaper Change" every April, brings together mothers from all over the Philippines to encourage them to switch to cloth diapers.
"Hakab" is also another advocacy of the "Modern Nanays of Mindanao" encouraging mothers to carry their babies using a cloth wrapped around their bodies. This practice is inspired by the practice of n indigenous people in the Philippines wherein mothers carry their babies using a tight fitting cloth wrapped around their torso. the advantage of doing this, Descallar said, is that mothers can do other things at home or in the workplace while their baby is held close to them.
"It is safer actually than leaving your baby at home or with someone else. But more than that we also believe in the connection that this can bring to the baby and his or her mother, being tightly joined with one another," Descallar explained.
As recognition to them winning the TAYO award and the Georgina P. Nava Women Leadership award, the City Social Welfare and Development of Cagayan de Oro has decided to partner with the 'Modern Nanays of Mindanao' in their mother and child caring activities for the next years. One of these is the move to provide lactation clinics in malls and offices in the city.
Casiño said they hope to receive funding from the government so they can also reach out to indigent mothers who need more attention and help.
Today, the group already has an Iligan City chapter.
"We have so much to go on actually. Of course it’s an honor to receive the TAYO award but then, we do not plan on stopping here but to expand our reach even to the grassroots level where there are so many mothers who are in need of our help and intervention," Casiño said.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on March 12, 2017.