by: Lei Phyu

Moms move mountains for their family. A big part of our work at UNDP focuses on giving an extra boost to help the moms who work tirelessly for their families.

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A mom attending a literacy class in Mongbwalu in the Democratic Republic of Congo. ©UNDP DRC

From all the moms we meet through our work, here are eight big reasons to love mothers worldwide.

1. Moms are always thinking of healthy food to feed us.

Priyanthi travels 40 km by bus every day from her rural village to the clock tower in Ampara, Sri Lanka to serve up her signature dish ‘Balanced Roti,’ a healthy take on ‘Pol Roti,’ a Sri Lankan flatbread made of coconut that is fried in butter.

While her husband takes care of their three children, she depends on serving up healthy fast food to provide for her family.

2. Moms always invest back into our health and well-being.

40-year-old Karima lost her husband, the family’s only breadwinner, to war in Iraq.

Karima had never learned to read or write. She felt very insecure about her illiteracy but she studied hard and completed a two-month-long job training workshop provided by us and Shell because she needed to provide for her five children. She is now the proud owner of the only mini-market in her neighborhood.

“My only son was born with paralysis. He cannot walk. After my husband’s death, I rarely took him to a doctor because there are always expenses involved and I felt terrible asking relatives for money. With the income I have, I am now able to take him to the doctor and even manage to buy him medication.”

3. Moms challenge barriers that prevent equal rights for their children.

Creuza Oliveira’s mother sent her away to become an unpaid domestic worker in Brazil. At work, she was beaten whenever she broke plates. Crueza was subjected to abusive name calling, physical and psychological abuse and experienced sexual abuse from the young men who lived in the home she worked in. Living as a human slave, in exchange for shelter, food and used clothes, she was exploited from the age of 10. At the age of 21, Crueza received her first wage. Working long hours during the day and studying at night whenever her boss allowed her, she had to repeat school multiple times and managed to finish high school by age 32.

Crueza is now a labor rights activist and President of the National Federation of Domestic Workers of Brazil.

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Women at a march of black women against racism, violence and lack of rights in Brazil ©Tiago Zenero/PNUD Brasil.

Everyday, Crueza challenges laws that affect labor rights and human rights of Brazil’s domestic workforce of nine million people, made up mainly of women of Afro-Brazilian descent who often face the lion’s share of discrimination, social exclusion and poverty in Brazil.

4. Moms go the extra mile to make sure children receive clean water.

Anabar Nosirova is a kitchen worker at a school in Kyrgyzstan. Every afternoon, Anabar makes four to five trips to gather 80–100 liters of water every afternoon, carrying 20 liters in two buckets with each trip. She then goes through a complicated water purification process to make it drinkable.

She filters the water through cheese cloth, letting it sit overnight so the dust settles to the bottom. The next day, she boils the water before making tea for the students.

“Many families don’t always go through this process at home, so many children miss school due to illness,” she says.

Kyrgyzstan is facing a shortage of clean water and many often miss school and work because of waterborne diseases like intestinal diseases and typhoid. In her district, where modern water treatment plants and plumbing systems don’t yet exist, 12,000 people depend on water delivered by open irrigation channels called aryk, which look like ditches. The water is vulnerable to contamination from animals, sewage, debris and trash. Across Kyrgyzstan, lack of access to clean drinking water presents a serious health problem in hundreds of villages. Up to 86% of typhoid cases occur in villages like Anabar’s village, which lacks safe drinking water.

5. Moms travel halfway around the world to bring affordable energy back so their kids can study longer.

They don’t know how to read or write. Yet Iris, Carmen, Alnora and Ingrid have traveled halfway around the world from Honduras to India to go to school to become solar engineers.

“Without any light our children cannot study at home. We now sleep at nine and the children can study at night.”

The four women, all from remote corners of Honduras, are leading efforts to bring solar-powered energy to reduce poverty in the most remote parts of their country. So far they’ve installed more than 200 panels, each generating 85 watts of power for household and other uses.

6. Moms preserve forests to protect their children’s futures.

“It is women who work hard around here to make sure that children can go to school and that we can improve ourselves,” says Catherine Nabutsale.

Catherine is a primary school teacher in the Sironko district of Eastern Uganda on the slopes of Mount Elgon. Catherine manages a classroom with 150 students, ranging from five to eight years of age.

She is also the Chairperson of the Sangaasana Women’s Collective. Established in 2003, the 40-member strong collective started by making crafts and rearing poultry to create income so they could send their children to go to school.

Catherine and her group came up with the idea of unbaked bricks. Seeing the amount of trees being cut down to make bricks for new development, Catherine and the collective designed interlocking sun-baked bricks that don’t require firewood. The bricks’ interlocking design means they also have the additional advantage of requiring less cement for mortaring. Their ultimate aim is to create a demand for locally made bricks and building materials that won’t put pressure on communities to chop down trees. She believes it is in their best interest to preserve the forests which provides many villagers with livelihoods.

7. Moms become politicians to change policies that affect their children’s health.

Anna Begunts is a high school teacher, a deputy principal, and a local councilor in her village of Sis in Armenia — one of two women on a council of eleven. Anna has been in local politics for six years, twice elected as a village councilor.

Anna’s work is focused on improving infrastructure in the village and fighting to reduce air pollution from a nearby waste facility. Getting involved in her community was a conscious choice, and one she hopes will be replicated by the next generation. She works hard at being a role model for the next generation. “I’m trying to get my students to achieve the things I couldn’t achieve in my life.”

Anna’s biggest battle has been over the local trash dump, where city trash is burned in the summer. Without a trash-processing factory, the air is filled with dangerous gases and the water becomes contaminated, increasing the risk of disease for her students.

She has been working on this since her first day in local politics. Since 2012, we’ve been working to promote equal representation of women in decision-making processes in politics through our Women in Local Democracy programme. Anna got involved in politics after attending local trainings and conferences in our program and she decided she wanted to do more to protect her students.

8. Moms face adversity to ensure a future free of violence for their children.

At the age of 12, Elena de Paz, was raped by soldiers in 1982. More than 30 years after she saw her family and community torn apart by Guatemala’s decades-long civil war, Elena stepped into a court room and made history with one testimony. Elena is one of the 97 witnesses who testified during a trial for genocide and crimes against humanity in 2013.

“It is vital for there to be justice because I do not want my children to go through such a terrible ordeal. I do not want such things to happen to anybody ever again.”

Help mothers facing famine

Moms work hard everyday to keep their family safe and healthy. This Mother’s Day, please sign our Goodwill Ambassador Connie Britton’s pledge to show your support for the millions of mothers and parents living on the brink of starvation. Click here to pledge:

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