You have to give Nestlé marks for persistence. This 2-day junket for “influential parenting bloggers” reminds me of a young woman that I met at the 4th UN World Conference on Women in 1995. I was at the NGO Forum in Huairou, a small resort town miles outside Beijing where the 30,000+ NGO activists were accommodated, out of sight of the diplomats who were negotiating the wording of the Platform for Action.
The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action and IBFAN, the International Baby Food Action Network, had organized a small team of breastfeeding advocates to speak up for breastfeeding as a women’s issue. The team included a Brazilian mime troupe that did a wonderful street theater piece, where a mom gave birth, then had doubts about breastfeeding. A formula salesman strode in on stilts with his free samples to “save the day,” but then he went offstage and the actor transformed back into the baby’s humble father, who REALLY saved the day by throwing out the formula and pacifier and giving the mother the support she needed to get back to exclusive breastfeeding.
The young woman saw a performance of the show and later came to a scheduled workshop about breastfeeding. Afterwards she explained to us that she was one of a group of about ten young women—she was from Europe but the others were mostly daughters of influential Asian families. The group had their way paid to Beijing plus hotel rooms (and probably spending money) for the duration of the conference. They had been fêted by high-up people from Nestlé, who asked them to fan out and attend Conference events about infant health and breastfeeding, where they were supposed to speak up about the good things Nestlé was doing now, and how the company had changed its ways since the bad old days of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Wasn’t this a clever idea of Nestlé’s, to buy plausible spokeswomen to present the company line at the Women’s Conference? Our visitor told us the ploy was not really working, though, because she was the only one who bothered to take the bus out to Huairou and actually attend NGO events. The others stayed in Beijing and went shopping.