My brain was bulging with ideas all day on what I could write about tonight. The words were flowing through my brain cells. Then I got home four hours ago and am now exhausted from caring for my daughter. I have forgotten everything that was so lucid earlier in the day. This is the stop and start of motherhood. I start projects that I have to abandon because my daughter needs something doing. While I love being a mother the stop and start of motherhood is frustrating, to say the least. Sometimes it causes me to question whether I am capable of finishing anything or whether the ‘stop and start’ is my construction for procrastination.
I recently heard Ana Luisa Amaral, a feminist mother poet from Portugal, speak about a moment in her life when her daughter broke a bowl in the kitchen. The broken pieces lying against the floor inspired a poem within her but she could not pick a pen up and write those words down, the broom was a far more practical implement for the moment. The moment was lost.
My frustration is best represented by Adrienne Rich’s words: “...Sometimes I seem to myself, in my feelings toward these tiny guiltless beings, a monster of selfishness and intolerance…And I am weak sometimes from held-in rage…And yet at other times I am melted with the sense of their helpless, charming and quite irresistible beauty…”
Mother’s Rights is a dimension of Women’s Rights but how often do you hear about mothers having rights? The closest the debate gets to mothers is in the sphere of health and reproductive rights but there are a plethora of other issues relevant to mother’s rights. The starkest scenario is in conflict/war areas where mothers watch their children die.
The lucky ones who manage to make it to the nearest refugee camps have to rely on charitable causes to help feed and clothe their children. Aid agencies rely on government aid and the generosity of strangers. The less that is given the less that mothers have. A mother’s dependency is, thus, heightened and her sense of agency watered down. Poverty is another violation of a mother’s rights. In so-called safe areas of the world mothers are struggling to feed their children in the face of austerity cuts and climate change negative effects. Water shortages are a massive deterrent to being able to mother one’s child in safety.
Mothering is done in different political and cultural situations but the crux of the problem, being able to offer your child the best, is a global problem. Mothers are more than baby carriers and home cleaners. These are externalised perceptions of mothers. Most have aspirations for their children-hopes and dreams which may never be realised given the rate of conflict that exists in our world today.
While girls still work as domestic servants in the world then a ‘Day of the Girl’ is vastly needed to counter the narrative that girls from poor homes are better off being modern day slaves than being left to grow up in their own homes. This is a wholly immoral twist of the debate that positions choice as being a race to the bottom. Working as a servant or domestic help is dressed up as a progressive choice for families who are so poor that their daughters of young teenage age are seen as employment fodder.
While child labour was outlawed in countries where the Rule of Law was upheld it was never recognised as being such in countries with lesser governance systems. While progress for young girls in much of the Western world is seen as being delivered via education and skills in other parts of the world progress means migration which, in turn, translates into leaving their villages or towns and moving to the cities where their labour is sought after in busy households. Never mind that the work will not equip them for anything better in the employment market.
As an example, in Pakistan working as a servant is one of the largest areas of employment for children. In Burkina Faso thousands of young girls seek work in the cities in the hope of being able to help feed and clothe their families who are poverty stricken. The causes of such employment is poverty and discrimination against female children. In the first case, poverty, poor families are already working long hours in very lowly paid jobs with no hope of scaling up. Female discrimination tends to view girls as not being capable of doing more than domestic work.
Once employed these girls disappear into the invisibility of their employers’ homes because domestic work is viewed as belonging to the private sphere of family life. With no regulation in place and no awareness of their predicament these girls are often subjected to physical and sexual abuse. Many suffer from depression and health problems as a result.
A day like today would not be complete without remembering these young ladies of the future who seem to live as if their everyday existence is worth so little.