“We have been working on it for a long time. It is a small gain!” said Mary Anne Glendon, Head of the Holy See delegation to the recent Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.
Homeward bound at Tokyo airport, I had the opportunity to thank her for the work done by both the Guatemalan and Vatican delegations to insert the words “Natural family planning” into the final document of the Beijing “Platform for Action.” It was accepted because it was environmentally sound.” A great deal of education still needs to be done,” she continued.
I like to think that the hard work carried on by The World Organization of the Billings Ovulation Method (WOOMB/Int) team in the Cairo, Copenhagen and Beijing UN conferences contributed to the successful inclusion of NFP into the document. Dr. Kevin Hume, Secretary to WOOMB/Int., Veronica Pierson, Conchita Villanova, Wanjiru Githongo and myself were five Billings Ovulation Method teachers accredited to the Beijing conference. Elizabeth Neilson, Ruth Enero, Angelina Kyonda, and Rita Joseph and Melinda Tankard-Reist, worked independently to spread the good news that the Billings Ovulation Method of NFP (BOM) brings to women and families all over the world.
The NGO Forum began ahead of the main UN conference and overlapped it by a few days. It was held in a field in Hairou some 40 kms distance from Beijing. Since it rained for a few hours every day rice began to grow in the mud around the booth that we had taken!
Our booth, if you could call our leaky, plastic tent awning a booth, was in a strategic
corner position. Members of our team lined up at the edge of the wobbly flagstoned floor
in order to hand out information. Since there were about 30,000 woman participants
there was no lack of passersby in spite of the daily downpour of rain. The more
interested were invited in to chat to Dr. Kevin Hume. He took up a commanding position
in front of the display unit where he sat people down for more in depth instruction, using diagrams prepared by Dr. Evelyn Billings expressly for that purpose. A doctor from Vietnam was one such customer who, like others from such countries as Laos and Cambodia, wanted to invite Drs. John and Evelyn Billiings to their countries.
An NBC “Today Show” television interviewer stopped to ask Kevin what it was like to be a man surrounded by so many thousands of women and ended up by filming an interview with him. Veronica was interviewed by a Polish TV crew. Most of us were interviewed by press from all over the world at one time or another.
We were joined occasionally by Dr. Majjid Katme, President of the Islamic Medical Association based in England, who was responsible for the presence of many veiled Moslem women at our workshops.
An intervention speech for the plenary session of the UN conference was prepared and, together with two other documents, entered into the health and women’s section of the UN documents ‘World Wide Web page on the Internet for all those interested to download at leisure.
A surprise visit from Dr. Zhang De-Wei, Deputy Editor in Chief of The Chinese Journal of Family Planning, was most welcome at this workshop because she could not only talk about the BOM in some depth, having taught it in Shanghai, but explain it in Mandarin to the Chinese present.
Only 3,000 delegates were allowed into the UN conference n Beijing itself as observers.
Veronica and I took up strategic positions in the two most popular cafes, striking up friendships with women who seemed eager to receive information. We spoke to media and correspondents from across the world.
On the last day I was brought onto the floor of the main plenary session and was amazed to be bombarded with requests for information kits from Ministers of Health and Family Planning experts in the delegations of such counties as Benin, the Ivory coast, Eritrea, Kajakhstan, Axerbaijan and Western Sahara.
All in all great strides were made at this conference in achieving Dr. John Billings’ goal of informing all the women in the world, before the end of the century, how to take charge of their fertiliy naturally, using the BOM. The team managed to visit the Great Wall, Forbidden City and Summer Palace before returning home exhausted but happy with the progress they had made towards this goal.
Susan Fryer is the Executive Director of the Billings Centre of Natural Family Planning, 1247 Bel-aire Dr., S.W., Calgary, Alberta, T2V 2C1