THE CHALLENGES MOTHERS FACE
Clearly, a mother is essential to human life, but her role involves far more than just bearing children. Regarding
the role of mothers in most parts of the world today, one writer observed: "she is the primary protector for each child's
health, education, intellect, personality, character, and emotional stability."
One of a mother's many functions is that of educator of her children. A child's words and its pattern of speech
are usually learned from its mother. Thus, a person's first language is often referred to as his mother tongue. The mother
generally spends more time with the children each day than her mate, so she may be their chief teacher as well as principal
disciplinarian. Thus, the Mexican proverb "Education is breast-fed" honors the important role of mothers. The importance of
teaching children during the first three years of life - when most are largely under their mother's care - is now widely acknowledged.
WHAT ARE SOME CHALLENGES OF MOTHERHOOD?
AND HOW ARE MOTHERS MEETING THE CHALLENGES
WORKING SECULARLY: major challenge
for many mothers today is working secularly to help provide financially for their family. Moreover, for one reason or another,
some also have to rear their children without another's help. For many mothers a challenge to teaching their children during
the crucial formative years is the pressure to work secularly to help support the family. Statistics gathered by the United
Nations show that in many developed countries, more than half of mothers with children under the age of three are employed.
WHEN HUSBANDS GO ABROAD: Many husbands
in less-developed countries move to more prosperous lands for employment, leaving their wives to raise the children. Mothers often bear the burden of bringing up their children by themselves because
their husbands have left home to find work in another city or country. For example, it is reported that in some regions of
Armenia, almost one third of the men have gone abroad in search of work. Other
mothers are left alone to raise their children because their husbands have abandoned them or have died.
MOTHERS WITH LIMITED EDUCATION: In some countries another challenge for many mothers is that they lack an education.
The UN department of Economic and Social Affairs estimates that two thirds of the world's 876 million illiterates are women.
In fact, in Africa, the Arab states, and East and South Asia, according to UNESCO, over 60
per cent of the women are illiterate. Furthermore, large numbers of men believe that educating women is unnecessary and even
makes them unfit for their childbearing role.
The magazine Outlook says that in one district of the state of
Kerala in India where girls are commonly
mothers by age 15, no one wants an educated bride. In neighboring Pakistan,
sons are given priority. Their upbringing prepares them to find better-paying jobs so they can support their parents in their
old age. On the other hand, according to the book Women's education in Developing countries,
"parents fail to invest in their daughters because they do not expect them to be able to make an economic contribution
to the family."
Illustrating the disadvantages of being an uneducated mother, Aurelia, in Mexico, a mother of six, explains: "When I was Young I always hear them say that
women were not meant to study. So I never learned to read and couldn't help my children with their homework. That hurt. But
since I didn't want them to suffer as I had, I worked hard to get them an education."
Antonia, in Mexico, a
mother who is raising two children, says: "I only went to primary school. We lived in an isolated village, and the nearest
secondary school was a long way off. But I wanted my children to have more education than I did, so I devoted a lot of time
to them. I thought them their ABC's and numbers. My daughter could spell her name and write all the letters of the alphabet
before she went to school. My son could read well by the time he went to kindergarten."
With even a limited education, a mother can make a difference. The saying is true: " Educate women and you
educate the teachers of men."
COMBATING HARMFUL CUSTOMS: A custom among
the Tzotzil of Mexico is to sell their daughters into marriage at the age of 12 or 13. Often girls are sold to a much older
man who wants a second or third wife. If the man is dissatisfied with the girl, he can return her and get his money back.
Another custom among many is for only the fathers to discipline sons in the family. "Tzotzil women are taught
that they are inferior to males. As a result of this, the mother have no control over their male children who are quick to
tell them that, they (Mother) can not tell them what to do. "If my father doesn't tell me, I won't obey." So, this makes mother
unable to educate their sons.
Yet another custom commonly practiced in some countries is what some term "female circumcision," now generally
called female genital mutilation (FGM). The operation removes parts or most of a girl's genitalia. The custom was publicized
by Waris Dirie, a well-known fashion model and special ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund.
In accord with local Somalian custom, as a child she was subjected to FGM by her parents. According to one
report, between eight and ten million women and girls in the Middle East and Africa are at
risk of undergoing FGM. Even in the United States,
an estimated 10,000 girls are at risk.
What beliefs underlie this practice? Some think that the female genitals are evil and that they make a girl
unclean and therefore unmarriageable. In addition, cutting off, or removing, the genital is looked upon as insurance of the
child's virginity and faithfulness. Failure by the mother to perpetuate this custom may incur the wrath of her husband and
the local community.
Many mothers, however, have come to realize that there is no legitimate reason - religious, medical, or hygienic
- to support this painful practice. The Nigerian documentary Repudiating repugnant
Customs reveals that many mothers have courageously refused to subject their daughters to it.
Indeed, Mothers all over the world are successfully protecting and educating their children in spite of many challenges.
Are their efforts truly appreciated? Let’s ask our selves this and contribute positively by joining the efforts of Sweet
Mother International Foundation worldwide.