How Mothers Can Change the World

Museum Pick: January 21-February 2, 2009

"The sky is falling, the sky is falling" said Chicken Little, which, if you turn on the radio, watch the TV or read the paper, feels fairly accurate. Everywhere we turn the word "crisis" is in the air--the financial crisis, the food crisis, the global warming crisis, the terrorist crisis... One would think that nothing good is happening in the world. Yet there is greatness all around.

Mothers Acting Up, Boulder, Colorado | Photograph: Scott Raderstorf


The positive light among us is the growing swell of activism from women formerly in the shadows. From heads of state to soccer moms, mothers around the world are doing incredible work to inspire, educate and engage their communities.

Mothers are a force to be reckoned with, by their sheer numbers alone. This huge, highly diverse group of women has traditionally been hard to track and define, let alone mobilize.

But, it's also a group whose members increasingly say in books, blogs and polls--whether they work or stay at home--that they are overwhelmed, weary of their traditional roles and ready for social reforms that will address the unmet needs of women and children.

A new generation of caregivers is rising to answer this global call for change. Mothers like Lorena in Costa Rica. Through their tenacious work, indigenous women have empowered themselves in the field of sustainable development and environmental conservation in Latin America.

Or Hangama, a mother of twin daughters, working to secure national policies that will safeguard children's rights in Afghanistan. Or Joan and Catherine, both mothers who developed an international women's fair trade cooperative using U.S. school fundraisers as their primary marketplace. And Tlaleng, who since the deaths of her first two children to HIV, has made a difference in the lives of many by bringing HIV/AIDS education to her village in Lesotho.

The promising reality is that mothers are emerging as social advocates and political leaders. Almost half of the legislators in Rwanda today are female (most are mothers), and in some of the poorest countries in South America, key positions in the government are being assigned to women and mothers.

In Afghanistan, a mother of three recently ran for president. All over the world, female politicians are proud to emphasize their role as mothers--and even campaign as mothers. Recently, the first U.S. mother, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, said, "As a mother, I will exhaust every remedy for peace." It's a refrain being heard more and more often as mothers step into leadership roles.

Mothers are a universal symbol of the unique power women have to get things done, to survive insurmountable odds, and to help others in need. Some, however, overwhelmed with the responsibility of raising children and running households, say "I'm concerned--I just don't have the time or energy to make a difference."

These mothers assume that getting involved in community advocacy must be a full-time job. But in fact, even the smallest effort makes a big difference. Improving local schools begins with a few parents and a mission statement. One mother's idea for expanding a childcare program can snowball into a county-wide initiative. Writing a letter or an e-mail to your congressman about legislation that will affect thousands of children in your community can take less than 30 minutes.

And you don't have to do it all yourself--activism is contagious! Just find something that stirs your passions and get the ball rolling. As our new President Barack Obama has shown us, small groups of community organizers have the ability to create big results.

Also, never doubt the tremendous influence a mother has on her children's perception of the world--simple words and actions have the potential to evolve young minds and create great shifts in their future. Talking to your kids about why we reuse and recycle is an easy, yet important message. Better yet, ask your children what kind of world they want to live in when they grow up and see if there is anything you can do with them to start creating that world right now. All of these small things you do as a parent add up in the big picture, so even if you are an at-home mom, you have a very powerful and important job in society.

The greater social environment in which our children live is in need of motherly love and attention. If we start using our collective voice, as women and as mothers, we can reverse the current trend of greed, violence and destruction that is so prevalent in the world today. As we mothers expand our influence of care beyond the confines of our homes and family units--and start caring more for the global family and our planet--we will become the change we wish to see in the world.


Traveling five continents, Amie Brooke Nelson is interviewing mothers for her forthcoming book, Inspiring Mothers: Wisdom and Activism from Mothers Around the World. This book will show motherhood as a perfect vehicle to revitalizing a woman's political and social consciousness. Receive your free 7 Simple Steps You Can Take Now to Change the World.

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