29 March 2019

Everyday heroes: the power of mothers for global change

Iryna with baby daughter Daryna (Ukraine)

Kate Adams, Senior Policy and Strategic Relations Adviser, reflects on Mother’s Day, as we celebrate the power of mothers to achieve global change.

International Women’s Day 2019 focused on innovations for transforming the world into one of gender parity and equality in every sphere. But let’s go back to basics. Families serve as a microcosm of the wider world and it is within families that the future will really be fostered. Yet, around the world, millions of children are being actively denied this right through the continued shaming, shunning and sidelining of women – their mothers.

It is a known relic of the UK’s own past that women were forced into secrecy or abandonment for having a child out of wedlock; and families are still unravelling from the trauma. My own ‘aunt’ turned out to be my cousin, when it was revealed that one sister had raised the baby of the other – for fear of being imprisoned for child birth outside of marriage. The impacts of broken families are intergenerational and, around the globe in the world’s poorest and most fragile countries, mothers continue to be faced with this brutal choice – give up my child, my family, my home, my liberty?

Hope and Homes for Children’s programme manager in Moldova, Livia Marginean, knows this dilemma all too well, and works every day to prevent it; “Mothers are unknown heroines of life, who nevertheless manage to come out  from the shadow of shame, helplessness, regrets and guilt when being supported”. 

“Why do we support mothers? She is the most important person in child’s life. For him, she is the whole world, and a fairy that can change his life with a smile. Beside her, he fears nothing. We cannot make a child happy by taking her away from him. He will suffer anyway. And we believe that deep inside she has the same bond. She may be ignorant and may leave her baby in an institution, in spite of her aching heart, because she believes this is better for him, and may believe the others when they say she is a bad mother. But when supported and listened to, she finds a source of living waters in her child’s eyes.”

“We champion, celebrate and support mothers every day of the week, 365 days of the year”

If the threat of the institutionalisation of children continues to be real, the severance of mother from child will continue to be instigated. That is why Hope and Homes for Children are transforming the landscape of how we care for the most vulnerable in society. We champion, celebrate and support mothers every day of the week, 365 days of the year.

From Mother and Baby Units in Sudan and Ukraine, tackling stigma and providing a safe space for mother and child at their most fragile time, to Community Hubs in Rwanda providing child care support and parenting classes to empower families to stay together. We prevent separation and the enduring heartache it entails, providing services that are a lifeline not only for the mothers of today, but for the generations to come.

One day, the abhorrent treatment and practices that serve to break not build futures will be confined to the history books. Orphanages will be as unacceptable as drink driving. Shaming mothers will be universally replaced with support and empowerment for those women paving the way for a positive future.

Families come in all shapes and sizes, but it is the function not the form that counts. As world leaders prepare for major global events including the G7 in August this year and the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting next year, both with a firm focus on gender equality, we will be advocating with some of the most powerful nations in the world to support the power of families  – for they are foundation and breeding ground for a stable, prosperous, fair and equitable future for all.

Read more about our approach and how we are working with governments to tackle the root causes of family breakdown.