Osama Bin Laden is dead but I fear that Al Qaeda’s mistreatment of women will still continue. Evidence in the past week seems to suggest that Al Qaeda will carry on the legacy of death and destruction despite the leader’s death because history has shown that such malevolent acts became a trade mark of the organisation practising it for as long as the organisation continues to exist. The abuse of women was long part of the subversive culture of the organisation.

In 2007 it was discovered in Iraq that Al Qaeda had been using rape as a weapon of terror against those women who had been deemed to have transgressed their ‘laws’ or, purely, for the pleasure of executing an act of violence. Members would break into houses and gang rape women and then take the women back to an Al Qaeda cell to be gang raped by the others. Often young girls were kidnapped because there was a high chance that these girls were virgins.

Quite ludicrously, to put it mildly, women’s basic freedoms were curtailed to the extent that a ban was imposed on them buying cucumbers because of a cucumber’s resemblance to being a phallic symbol. More seriously, women haven’t been allowed to work, be educated and move around freely in society. Al Qaeda is rightly seen as an enemy of the west but many acts of cruelty are conducted against Muslim women too as this shows.

I hope that the abuse of women by Al Qaeda will form a part of Western considerations when dealing with those countries or organisations who are sympathetic to Al Qaeda’s aims. Women’s rights is an international issue and a global approach is needed to address women’s plight in the face of religious fundamentalism

A mother poses with her three children, presenting a picture of happiness, but last year she killed them brutally. Today she was sentenced to jail for 18 years. I call myself a Mother Activist but I am still more shocked at a mother killing her children then a father doing the same.
Yet, according to the American Anthropological Association, more than 200 women kill their children in the United States each year. Three to five children a day are killed by their parents. Homicide is one of the leading causes of death of children under age four.

Why then does society, I include myself here,treat such incidents as if it were such a rare occurence? I attribute this foolish naivety to the unrealistic motherhood model of self-sacrificing mothers who are expected to divest themselves of any shortcomings when it comes to their children. These mothers aren’t expected to have any human quirks such as personality disorders, low self-esteem or to suffer from depression. It is as if women who are mothers have split personalities: the mother side is one of perfection in every sense and the other ‘normal’ side is only allowed to reveal itself when the children aren’t around.

When society learns to twin these two personalities mothers will,finally, be recognised as human beings who are multi-dimensional. Mothers do not have to be denied for the advancement of children. On the contrary, violence is probably a by-product of the subversion of motherhood. I am not excusing this mother’s actions but am seeking to point out that mothers who kill may not have gone on to do so if there was a recognition of the struggles endured by mothers. To chip away at the outmoded notion of motherhood isn’t to reduce it but rather to strengthen it. The construction of a new model of motherhood will, consequently, benefit those children who are at risk in their homes.


This piece was carried as a front page feature by www.modernmom.com
On the 29th of April 2011 Cinderella will marry her Prince. The British Royal Family will receive the sort of press coverage that we haven’t seen since Princess Diana’s funeral. The role of Cinderella in this modern fairy tale will be played by Kate Middleton and the Prince is William.

Cinderella, as we all know, was young, beautiful and a sacrificial female who waited for the right man, a Prince no less, to come along and rescue her. Fast forward to contemporary times and we have Kate. She is a living example of one of the first fairy tales that little girls are introduced to and, alas is proof that such dreams can come true for a few. The Disney magic of Cinderella with the magic of mice turning into soldiers, swishy gowns with stars on them and high heels isn’t just stuff made of empty wishful dreams and therein lies the trouble with fairytales.

They do nothing for feminism but trot out the same old tale of a woman waiting to be given a new lease of life by a man, whether he is a real Prince or not, in the form of a wedding ring. The debate on whether Kate has set back the feminist agenda is a much discussed one among women everywhere, especially in Britain. Not a week goes by without a media article on this issue and discussion centres around the fact that Kate seem to have done nothing with her life between leaving university and getting married save for a short spell at a fashion house.

I don’t think anyone is questioning her decision to get married but rather the fact that she seemed to have slipped into the lifestyle of an age gone where women didn’t do too much for fear of being seen as being too clever and overshadowing the man who marries her. Her period of languish is being seen as a fantasy fuelled period – ‘One day my Prince will come’. Prince William did not actually propose to Kate till a few months ago so many of her years have been spent languishing, for want of a better word. Hence the nickname given to Kate by the British media – ‘Waity Katey’

The romantic among you may say that she is doing all this for love. Does love have to be so sacrificial and in high doses even before one gets married? Marriage does involve an element of sacrifice for the better good of the union but if she has done this much so far what will be the expectations of the Royal Family from her? This family does not encourage independent and innovative thinking women.

What I find quite sad is the fact that her parents have been quite complicit in all this. As a Modern Mom I would have been quite despondent if this was my daughter’s life being played out. I want my daughter to realise the power of her selfhood and this means reaping the benefits of her good education to enter the workforce where she will challenge herself in many ways. My daughter is a person in her own right and must never wait for a man to validate her. The 20s are a defining era in a woman’s life. It’s not only about entering the workforce but about learning a whole new set of life skills. It’s when women have earning power and the financial means to travel and explore new avenues in life. It is the first taste of proper adulthood when you have to make decisions yourself and be accountable for them.

The current economic global perspective is marshalling a greater than ever social move towards personal effort and economic autonomy independent of welfare issues. Given this it is absolutely crucial for a woman to be able to demonstrate free will and make wise choices that will not only sustain her in the current but for the future as well.

Little girls must be taught that the story of Cinderella can be rewritten to show that this fairy tale figure could have fought back by being assertive and strong willed. She may have still married her Prince but the marriage would not have been a life saving device. It would have been a union of two people in love who were willing to accommodate the needs of the other. More marriages fail than succeed and it would be wrong for mothers to pass on the fairy tale message unfiltered.

A ‘Helicopter Parent’ is a term used to refer to parents who adopt a parenting approach that has them hovering over their children’s lives almost in an interfering manner regardless of whether the child needs them or not in any particular situation. It has also been referred to as ‘overparenting’ because these parents seek to smooth their children’s lives out for them without giving the child an opportunity to work out a solution for themself.

This approach is most commonly seen in educational institutions where parents barge in to see teachers or university lecturers to demand that their child be given a better grade or mark because that is what he/she deserves, according to the parent’s observation.

Helicopter parenting is made easier by modern gadgetry so distance is no barrier to calling your child up to check on what they are doing. Parents have been known to call their child’s mobile to wake her/him up in the morning. Sarah Briggs, Confessions of a Helicopter Parent, calls this the ‘world’s longest umbilical chord’.

Such a parenting approach goes against my theory of mothering which advocates teaching your child the skills of autonomy of thought and action so that he/she will have a framework from which to draw upon when making important decisions. Also, the decision to leave the child to get on must be age appropriate too. I would not entrust my 11 year old with the decision on how her savings ought to be invested. However, I do seek her opinions on her choice of subjects and how best to tackle her homework because this is an age appropriate life skill to be learning.

I can’t believe how time has flown since MIRCI and CRIA held a joint conference on ‘Mothering and Motherhood in the 21st Century: Research and Activism’ in Lison, Portugal on 18 and 19 February 2011. I can’t believe how time has flown since MIRCI and CRIA held a joint conference on ‘Mothering and Motherhood in the 21st Century: Research and Activism’ in Lison, Portugal on 18 and 19 February 2011.

The conference explored how scholars and activists challenge normative motherhood and develop new experiences, practices, identities, meanings, activisms, ideologies and policies for empowered mothering. In the context of this I learnt about how women from around the world are making inroads with their brand of feminist mothering which is making incremental changes globally.

Dr Andrea O’Reilly,, MIRCI, opened the session with an analysis of what the 21st century motherhood movement looks like ahead of her book which is due out this year on the same subject. The shape shifting scenario, she said, alludes precise definition. Dr O’Reilly spoke of a diffused motherhood movement which champions rights in areas such as pre-school and social security. In other words, women in all spheres of life are acting as champions. She contrasted this with the male model of leadership which holds central power. The female model, instead, is dispersed but nonetheless strong and effective and uses new media technology to spread the message i.eg Twitter, email, bloggin and Facebook.

My participation at the conference certainly backed up Dr O’Reilly’s theory that the movement is diffused. I sat in on events in which women spoke about:
a) ‘A New Generation of Mothers Reshaping Their Communities, one email at a time’ by Ann Wallace, USA, on how her activism centres on who she was as a mother and how silence wasn’t an option for her.
b) ‘Searching Feminist Perspective To Mothers’ Substance Use Problem’ by Ritva Natkin, Finland, who spoke about how there is a problem in fairly describing and naming the different problems that mothers experience. As an example, ‘addicted’ could mean poor, tired, depressed or traumatized. She said the media is guilty of categorising and stimatizing women’s problems by their careless use of language.
c)’Motherhood, Radicals and Cold War Politics in the Voice of Women, Canada’ by Marie Hammond-Callaghan who used the life history of Barbara Roberts, a Canadian peace historian, to demonstrate that maternalism may have been used to embolden mothers in their fight back against injustice.
d)’Learning to Mother Ourselves:Nurturing the Self Through Improvised Role Enactment’ by Arlene Vadum, USA, who spoke about the need for women to try an experimental approach to life by learning to look after themselves as a person. I think most mothers would identify with this need.
The above is a microcosm of the women and subjects presented at Lisbon.

My talk was titled ‘Chocolate & Contemplative Discussion on Ambition in Your Mothering’. I handed out a box of chocolates as a metaphor: you don’t know what style of mothering you will adopt till you become a mother yourself. Mothering is a subjective persona.

Many thanks to MIRCI and CRIA for this wonderful conference which showed attendees the layers of mothering that goes on around the world and the diversity within it.