We’ve all heard it before in one form or another: “Don’t get between a mother and her baby,” “There is nothing better (or worse depending on your position!) than a fired up mom” or “Mothers are their kids’ best advocates. However you phrase it, I see evidence of this everywhere I go for my work as Save the Children’s CEO and, I guess, Mom-in-Chief. It plays out whether I’m in Washington, DC or Lexington, Kentucky or the Bekka Valley of Lebanon. And during my trip last week to rural Nepal, I saw it again in full force.
Nepal is a country with some significant success in achieving one of the most basic needs for children: the need (and dare I say, the right) to survive. Twenty five years ago in 1990, the child mortality rate for children under 5 in Nepal was 141 deaths for every 1,000 children born. Today that rate is 48 per 1000. This progress is remarkable in a country that ranked 160th in 2012 on the global poverty scale as measured by average GDP, according to the World Bank. So this is not really about money or increasing economic prosperity changing the health system. It is about making choices and empowering moms.
The mothers I met in Save the Children’s programs in Nepal, funded in large part by the US Government through the U.S. Agency for International Development, were busy learning how to make the good choices that will help their children thrive. They were being trained by community health workers in their villages, all experienced mothers themselves, on how to grow and prepare more nutritious food, how to determine if a pregnancy was likely to require birth at a health facility versus at home, and why breastfeeding is a must for the first six months to ensure proper nutrition and brain development. All of this knowledge will help moms help their children grow to their full potential—and maybe
even save their lives.
even save their lives.
As I sat and spoke with these women, the same theme kept emerging—they all told me they come to these trainings because they want to do everything they can to improve their child’s chances in life. You might be thinking: of course any mom would do this…what’s the big deal? But these are women who spend, on average, 16 hours per day on household chores, manual labor in their fields, taking care of livestock, or walking miles to go to the markets or collecting water or fuel for cooking. Most of the moms in these villages are illiterate and have about two years of formal education. So setting aside several hours a week for this training is a choice they make—and this choice means less time to sleep, eat or even take a breath. As mothers, we all make sacrifices for our kids…but these moms take it to another level.
It was clear to me, as I watched the health workers go through the steps to make a highly nutritious pumpkin porridge, that the knowledge the women take away from these trainings is so much more important than a porridge recipe. What they are really learning is that despite the grinding poverty of their lives, they can take meaningful steps to improve their children’s futures and give them a better life. The power is in their hands and they are the ones who can make the biggest difference in helping their children survive—and thrive.
So as we look towards Mother’s Day, I would challenge each of you who care about children and the future of our world to think about how you can help support empowered moms everywhere!
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