Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Solutionary Women: Mary Brune

As I mentioned in a post a couple weeks ago, I've started writing a weekly feature over at Blogher called Solutionary Women. I thought I'd share this week's interview with Mary Brune, co-founder of MOMS (Making Our Milk Safe). Mary is a professional writer and mom to her daughter, Olivia.

"MOMS was founded by four nursing mothers to address the threat of toxic chemicals in human breast milk. MOMS is a grassroots movement of pregnant women, nursing mothers, and other caregivers who are concerned about the threat that environmental contaminants pose to our unborn and nursing children. Our goal is to identify and eliminate sources of toxic chemicals that make their way into our bodies and into our breast milk."

Mary was kind enough to let me e-interview her for this post. You can check out Mary's new blog at Conscious Mama.


Describe the work you do for MOMS.

Basically, everything: researching and writing grants, planning campaigns,
tracking relevant legislation, designing materials and writing web content.
MOMS has a very limited budget, so it's more cost-effective to do what we
can internally (among the founders or with volunteers), rather than hire
outside contractors. I get to design campaign postcards and then lick the
stamps, too.

What do you enjoy the most about your work with MOMS?

I really enjoy making connections with other activists and moms in the
community. I've been moved by the response we've gotten for our work so far.
Even though mothers are a pretty busy group of folks, they still make the
time to get involved in advocacy work and I find that really inspiring.

What are the biggest challenges in your work with MOMS?

All of the exciting elements in building an organization from the ground up
can also make it a terrifying experience. The uncertainty of whether we'll
get a grant we've applied for, or if we'll be able to get 25 moms out in
support of a piece of important legislation can be nerve-wracking.

There are inherent difficulties in mobilizing a constituency of mothers:
there are nap times to work around, colossal diaper changes, and tantrums to
avoid. Since the founders of MOMS are all mothers too, we understand the
need to make it as easy as possible for interested moms to get involved. We
try to make our events and rallies very baby-friendly with spots for nursing
& changing, snacks for babies, and places to play. I'm sure our first direct
action will involve chalk for drawing on the sidewalk and animal crackers.
Organic ones, of course.

What keeps you motivated and energized to do this work?

My daughter, Olivia. Honestly, it's an outrage to read stories in the paper
about lead-tainted lunchboxes, rocket fuel in lettuce, or arsenic in our
playgrounds. I'm so inspired by the fantastic work being done by groups like
the Center for Environmental Health, Environmental Working Group, and others.

As a nursing mother, I find it unbelievable that there are toxic chemicals
in my breast milk. Even so, I know that breast milk is superior to any other
choice. But will that always be true, if chemicals are allowed to remain
unchecked and unregulated in our marketplace? I'm motivated to make sure
that Olivia and all children of the next generation continue to enjoy the
benefits provided by mother's milk.

What tips, resource and advice would you give to someone who wanted to do the kind of work you are doing, or just wanted to make a difference in women and children's health issues?

When MOMS was just getting started, I spent a lot of time looking around to
find out what efforts were already underway to see if there were
opportunities for collaboration with groups already working on environmental
health issues. I came across the Collaborative on Health and Environment
and Partnership for Children's Health and Environment (PCHE), both of which offer searchable databases on their websites so folks can look up the issues they care about, like pesticide use in schools; for example, and connect with groups or individuals organizing efforts in their areas.


If you know a Solutionary Woman who works at a nonprofit or NGO, please email me at britt at brittbravo dot com with their name, organization and contact info.

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