This post was originally published on the Huffpost UK site for Mother’s Day 2012.

I feel blessed to be a mother. I love being a mother. These all seem obvious things to say don’t they on Mother’s Day but consider, instead, how today is celebrated as a tribute to the institution of motherhood? Much in the same the way Easter and Christmas are observed, Mother’s Day is about pink advertisements displaying flowers, chocolates and wine. Almost as a ritual the mother will be served breakfast in bed and taken out to lunch but the drawbridge is pulled up when it comes to talking about the joyful lived experience of being a mother, or ‘mothering’ as I call it.

In fact, it has become more commonplace to deride being a mother. Every so often a woman will make headlines for talking about how boring being with her children makes her. Close to the summer school holidays watch out, yet again, for mothers filling column inches talking about the dread of having their children at home for six weeks and how difficult and, again, boring it will be.

The cool culture that afflicts children under the age of 17 has been extrapolated and is now evident among mothers. Much in the same way that these children don’t want to be seen with their mothers because it is uncool, it has likewise become uncool to say that mothering is fun. It has not helped recently that motherhood, as the institution, is always portrayed as a struggle through being defined as casualties of the austerity cuts and a lack of structural support such as childcare.

Accurate though these portrayals are and much as they are needed to spur on an improved diversity in understanding the struggles of mothers there is still an omission. It is an omission that consists of a failure to place a value on the wonder of having a child. The big deal is that, as a result, there is a lack of moral development and understanding of the enduring joy that transcends the difficulties of mothering.

The public debate on motherhood places a monetary value on it in terms of childcare costs and lost wages. However, the intangibles of mothering, love and care, are confined to the private sphere of domestic life. The public face of motherhood is one of financial sacrifice and hardship and the private face of mothering is one of sacrificial love. Yes, mothers do make sacrifices and put their children’s needs first but to equate this with being an equivalent of a ‘sacrificial lamb’ is misguided.

Mothering is a personal bond and is practised subjectively but I do firmly believe that the unifying thread among caring mothers is one of enduring joyful love and devotion to their children. Happy Mothering Sunday.

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Tamil women in the north and east of Sri Lanka live a bleak life in which they are severely constrained by the dual evils of the aftermath of the civil war, fought between the Government and the Tamil Tigers, and by a serious and crucial lack of capacity building efforts to help them cope and rebuild their lives.

The plight of these women are set out in a report titled. ‘Sri Lanka: Women’s Insecurity in the North and East‘, published by the International Crisis Group on 20 December 2011. The report states that these women are powerless in the face of economic depravity, suffer from sexual abuse and are marginalised because their needs are not recognised at multiple levels.

Sri Lanka is a patriarchal society and many women are disadvantaged from having lost their husbands in the war. Their employment opportunities are limited and many cannot even afford to pay for food for their families. The catalogue of degradation makes for harrowing reading. Women have been forced into prostitution or coercive sexual relationship. Some have been trafficked. Such is the fear of sexual violation that females are too scared to go to school/college or seek employment.

Highly significantly the report states that: ‘..is the government willing and able to hold accountable those responsible for alleged crimes? To date it has failed to demonstrate that it is.’

Roundup #3 for Blog for International Women’s Day #blogforiwd

I have been inspired by the amount of organisations around the world that are dedicated to the female cause, namely in educating girls and helping them escape dire situations in dangerous regimes or repressive cultural situations. 

The soft power of compassion is the unifying thread of the tireless work of these organisations. 

Compassion is a powerful feminine attribute. I don’t ascribe the use of the word compassion here to mean, in any sense, docile or submissive. The word for these traits is repression, not compassion. Compassion as a soft power is a powerful tool in helping people escape poverty, getting girls into education in places where education is reserved for males and the list goes on. 

Compassion is shown by the bloggers around the world today who are bringing into the public eye stories of suffering endured by girls. Compassion is then spread through the act of other bloggers picking up on the story and running with it. Many causes are asking for funds and I hope that compassion will extend to aid giving as well. The value of compassion is limitless because it can extend from a single act of caring for your own daughter to working towards the collective good of girls everywhere. Everyone has a part to play. 

The stigma of being female is the crux of a myriad of problems facing our young women. It acts a curse or a slur to last a lifetime from the moment the girl is born. The problem predominantly exists in Asia and Africa where males are assigned more value but the rest of the world is still guilty of wanting a male heir.

The preference for a male is predicated either on the notion of vanity in the Western world, to carry on the family name, or for economic reasons, the male will go out to work to bring money back into the family home.

Hollow as these reasons seem to me as a feminist, girls are being killed in some parts of the world-Gendercide-for these reasons. This is the extreme result of the stigmatisation of girls on a continuum line which, at the lower end, sees girls not being encouraged to be aspirational but, rather, to conform to the patriarchal stereotype of wanting to look beautiful with the sole aim of marrying a rich man. In between lies a sliding scale of the repression and the stigmatisation of females.

Patriarchy is the bogeyman in all this and is emmeshed in the world’s cultures, secular establishments and religious practices. Patriachy is a pervasive discriminant. It is only by challenging it at every turn can our girls grow up safely and aspire to greatness.

It was a seminal moment in the history of the British Trade Union movement when in the 1970s a South Asian woman challenged the working practices of British employers through a series of protests referred to as ‘The Grunwick Strike’.

The woman who marshalled the Grunwick movement, Jayaben Desai, had moved to Britain after leaving Africa where she had been part of the middle class. Upon moving to Britain she realised that her working options were restricted due to her ethnicity. Grumwick was a mail order film processing company and Jayaben went to work there enduring long hours on low wages. Fed up of being badly treated she told her manager one day that, ‘What you are running is not a factory, it is a zoo. But in a zoo there are many types of animals. Some are monkeys who dance on your fingertips. Others are lions who can bit your head off. We are those lions, Mr Manager’. She then walked out and 100 fellow workers joined her.

So began a two year battle for the workers at Grunwick to be awarded trade union protection. Jayaben’s cause gathered thousands of supporters. Sadly, the fight was lost in large part due to Margaret Thatcher’s support for Grunwick but the moral cause was won by Jayaben because it brought the labour movement together in a way that no other cause had done before. In the process the social dialogue was opened up to embrace an awareness of the difficulties that immigrant workers faced and trade unions began to take note of the rights of minorities and women.

One small act by a woman sidelined by society that led to giant leaps for all.