Mothers in Peril: A Reflection of a Nation.
"The hand that rocks the cradle rules the nation and its destiny" ...
"Sweet Mother" a song released by the late Prince Nico Mbarga, a popular Nigerian musician in 1976, spoke to the core reasons why we must celebrate our mothers and never forget our mothers.
Mbaraga's, melodious tune chimed (in Nigerian Pidgin English) "Sweet mother I no go forget you for the suffer wey you suffer for me" (meaning: Sweet mother, I will never forget you for the sufferings you had to undergo for me). Mbaraga went on to say, "If I forget you [mother], therefore I forget my life and the air I breathe." "If you forget your mother you've lost your life."
In essence, Mbaraga's lyrics re-emphasized the old saying, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the nation and its destiny." In other words, the state of a Nation’s Mothers reflects the state of the nation.
At the heels of Mother's Day celebrations, the study "State of the World’s Mothers 2004" released by Save the Children, unearths the troubling question - have we forgotten the mothers in most of Africa?
The report raised the consequences of early motherhood and detailed a "Mothers’ Index"; which essentially listed the best and worst countries for mothers and the most perilous nations for early mothers. To create its “Mother Index” the study measured 119 countries using the following indicators: lifetime risk of maternal mortality, modern contraception usage rates, percentages of births attended by trained personnel, percentages of pregnant women with anemia, adult female literacy rates and participation of women in national government.
The study’s findings reiterated the notion that education, proved to be the single most important factor in curbing early motherhood and reducing the difficulties experienced by mothers and children. One of the report’s key findings was that, “women who were educated were more likely to postpone marriage and early childbirth, seek health care for themselves and their families, and encourage all of their children, including girls, to go to school.” A practical example of this is in Nigeria where 40 percent of girls, aged 15 to 19, were already mothers; whereas, less than 10 percent of those with seven years of schooling, or more, had given birth before they were 20 years old.
The report noted that ongoing or post-conflict situations have contributed to the difficulties experienced by mothers. Conflict has particularly effected nations like Liberia, for example, which recently emerged from civil war. Liberia recorded 3 out of every 4 pregnant women as anemic and Save the Children’s “Early Motherhood Risk Ranking” also identified Liberia as one of highest risk countries for young mothers and their babies. This is particularly disturbing, especially since many young Liberian girls, by all accounts, have suffered rape and have no access to properly address the psycho-social needs and challenges that are a consequence of their situations.
The low participation of women in government has also slowed improvement of conditions of mothers in several nations in Africa. The study rightly asserted that, “When women have a voice in public institutions, they can participate directly in governance processes, and advocate for issues of particular importance to women and children.” The report found that in Niger, participation rates of women stood at only 1%. Further troubling was the finding that only 1 in 11 women in Niger had obtained formal schooling, and 1 child in 6 died before the age of 1.
In light of these findings, it is essential that the United Nations and African Governments work to improve conditions of mothers in Africa. Governments can do so by supporting the education of girls through grants, and through other incentives to assist parents in educating their daughters. Governments should work on providing improved prenatal and post-natal care to women; in other that women sustain healthy pregnancies, and have healthy babies. Programs should be instituted for women who have undergone assault, and Governments should form benchmarks to raise the participation rates of women in government.
As we celebrate mother’s day, African mothers should be given the gift of improved conditions, for current and future mothers.
We must not forget our mothers. A gift to mothers is not only a gift to women and children, but also a gift to the nation and the world as a whole.
About the author:
Ima Myers, is a Mathematician/Computer programmer. She currently resides in Canada.
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