The campaign theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Pledge for Parity’. The definition of ‘parity’ is ‘the state or condition of being equal’. The state of refugee mothers at the moment can only be described as being tragic and heart wrenching. There is nothing in this pool of human and mother misery that has even a whiff of equality.
The images of people being stuck on the borders of countries in Europe are shown to us via the news on TV and in the print media. We see children wearing flimsy clothing at the height of winter. Tents that our children normally sleep in when they go away on adventurous camping trips in the summer have become ‘homes’ for the displaced children. All it would take is a strong gust of wind or heavy rain to dismantle the thin nylon material that acts as ‘home’. I I feel for the mothers of the children who cry or who are simply too exhausted to even cry from their the treacherous journey of the sea crossings that they undertake in the middle of night to evade the authorities. These mothers are suffering themselves from displacement but are expected to carry on mothering their children under the harshest of conditions. The whole focus of the family is centered on survival in a way that we in the western world cannot contemplate.
The concept of ‘survival’ though is an elastic one. A book titled: “Mothering, Violence, Militarism, War and Social Justice’ documents the various experiences of mothers and the difficulties they face in being able to mother their children. Sadly, the book reminds us that what refugee mothers are currently facing in Turkey, Greece and Macedonia, among other places, is hardly new to the history of mothering. Conflict ridden mothering practices that emerge when mothers are dislocated veers between wanting to provide a safe existence for their children but being riddled with guilt over what they have to put their children through to achieve it.
On International Women’s Day let’s remember that parity, while important, is not a concept that has universal uniform applicability. While women in the democratized western countries adhere to a version of parity that covers equal pay and seats in the boardroom there are mothers who are suffering from the effects of war and,.in trying to flee those places, are being stigmatized for doing so and are being told to ‘go back to where you came from’. It is conflict mothering at its’ worst because it comes from an external force that disregards and takes away a mother’s natural instinct to provide and protect for her children.