Choose a news category:

Mothers Fight Back

Posted on: Thursday, May 9, 2013

Keywords: Middle East, Latin America, Africa

This Sunday is Mother's Day, and like many of you, I will spend it at home with my family. I’m looking forward to the home-made cards and presents from my kids, and maybe the great gift of sleeping in an extra hour. As I enjoy this time, I’ll also be thinking of the Syrian mothers I just met in a refugee camp in Jordan.

Like mothers everywhere, their first priority is to ensure their children’s safety. That’s why many of them fled their homes in the first place. Now, as their families grow destitute as refugees, many mothers feel that the only way they can provide for their teenaged daughters is to marry them off. “I would rather see her married than hungry,” said Leila of her young daughter. “I just pray that this man will be kind to her.”

A young activist in a local Jordanian women’s organization told me, “This was supposed to be a revolution for freedom in Syria. But for the girls there is no freedom. Instead there are men from the Gulf countries lurking around the refugee camp looking for child brides.”

In my work with women around the world, I see mothers face choices like Leila’s every day.

After an earthquake devastated Haiti, millions of families were displaced from their homes. Mothers put up makeshift tents in huge public encampments with no running water, no security, and no lights at night. When an epidemic of rape swept through the camps, mother were their children’s only line of defense. “I stayed awake through the nights,” Louise told me. “I had to choose between sleeping or keeping watch over my two daughters. I held a broken bottle for protection and positioned it to dig into my arm if I fell asleep.”

The mothers I met in Kenya were also forced to make decisions no parent should have to face. Severe drought over recent years has decimated herding communities in East Africa. As animals died off and water for even basic survival grew scarce, more and more families resorted to trading daughters for dowries, in some cases to ensure the survival of the rest of the family.

War, natural disaster, environmental crisis. No matter the threat to their children, mothers fight back.

In Jordan, Syrian mothers who are refugees are working with local women’s groups to protect the health and well-being of their daughters and provide safety and shelter for their families.

In Haiti, mothers organized community watch groups in the tent camps and reached out to rape survivors with healthcare and counseling through the women’s rights organization, KOFAVIV. A bill they put before the Haitian parliament would create Haiti’s first age of consent and criminalize marital rape for the first time, protecting their daughters now and throughout their futures.

In Kenya, mothers helped create a network of shelters as a place for their daughters to receive an education and enjoy their childhood, protecting them from female genital mutilation and forced early marriages. They call these shelters the Nanyori Network. In Swahili, Nanyori means “You are loved.”

This Mother’s Day, I’ll be thinking of these women, mothers just like me, facing unimaginable hardships. I’ll be thinking of their strength and their dignity, of their dedication and unfailing love. As the poet Alexis De Veaux has written, “Motherhood is more than the biological act of giving birth. It’s an understanding of the needs of the world.” Fighting to meet those needs, all around the globe, is what mothers do.

By Yifat Susskind, Executive Director

« Back to "Press Room" Next Article »

Article Tools
Increase Font Decrease Font Reset Font Print Page Email Page


"Press Room" Home November 2014 October 2014 September 2014 August 2014 July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 April 2014 March 2014 February 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 October 2013 September 2013 August 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 November 2012 October 2012 September 2012 August 2012 July 2012 June 2012 May 2012 April 2012 March 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 November 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 July 2011 June 2011 May 2011 April 2011 March 2011 February 2011 January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 October 2010 September 2010 August 2010 July 2010 June 2010 May 2010 April 2010 March 2010 February 2010 January 2010 December 2009 November 2009 October 2009 September 2009 August 2009 July 2009 June 2009 May 2009 April 2009 March 2009 February 2009 January 2009 December 2008 November 2008 October 2008 September 2008 August 2008 July 2008 June 2008 May 2008 April 2008 March 2008 February 2008 January 2008 December 2007 November 2007 October 2007 September 2007 August 2007 June 2007 May 2007 April 2007 March 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 November 2006 October 2006 September 2006 July 2006 June 2006 April 2006 March 2006 January 2006 December 2005 November 2005 September 2005 August 2005 July 2005 April 2005 March 2005 November 2004 October 2004 April 2004 March 2004 January 2004 December 2003 October 2003 September 2003 June 2003 April 2003 January 2003 September 2002 June 2002 January 2002 November 2001 October 2001 September 2001 August 2001 January 2001


Kat Noel, Website & Media Coordinator
PHONE: +1 212 627 0444

To sign up to receive MADRE media alerts, click here.

Bring MADRE to You

MADRE & Our Partners Make News