As of last week, a new quilt hangs in the Northwest Territories Legislature, depicting personal stories about the impact of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) on communities across the territory.
The community artwork project was presented to the territorial minister of Health and Social Services, Glen Abernethy, by the NWT FASD Committee on Sept. 9, International FASD Day. The idea behind the initiative was to create an awareness of the support people with FASD need to succeed in day to day life, while reminding expectant mothers to take care of themselves and their children in utero.
“The quilt has a message of hope about FASD,” said Ethel Blake, manager of health and community wellness promotion for the department of Health and member of the committee. “The purpose of the quilt is to hang in the legislature to continue on a daily basis bringing that message to the attention of people because…it’s an issue that we all need to work together on.”
There are 55 squares on the quilt, each lovingly sewn by volunteers from communities across the NWT. Each individual square measures 10 by 10 inches; aside from that stipulation, there were no rules for the design. Each section was created using inspiration volunteers drew from their interactions with people in their lives who have FASD.
“We’re not focusing in on any kind of negative stigma associated with FASD or alcohol consumption,” said Denise McKee, executive director of the NWT Disabilities Council and a member of the committee. “What we really want to take a look at is creating healthy communities and healthy women and healthy pregnancies as a result. We really wanted to take a look at how people looked at it and to see it as kind of an art form.”
The project was organized by Rosa Wah-Shee, a child and youth disabilities consultant with the territorial government. Once all the squares were submitted, quilter Anita Griffore of Yellowknife completed the piece.
FASD is a developmental disorder caused by alcohol consumption by expectant mothers while pregnant. It can result in a wide range of mild to severe effects impacting the physical, brain and central nervous system and can cause cognitive, behavioural and emotional issues. There are currently no accurate statistics available on the prevalence of FASD in the Northwest Territories.
According to Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines, there is no safe amount and no safe time to consume alcohol during pregnancy.
In another act of awareness-raising, the Disability Council held a clothing and item swap for new and expectant mothers at the Northern United Place in Yellowknife. Information on the impacts of drinking while pregnant and breastfeeding was served up along with a hot lunch.
The moms-to-be who attended were given the chance to sign a pledge to avoid drinking while pregnant, while others pledged to support their expectant friends and family by providing alcohol-free events where they wouldn’t feel the pressure to imbibe.