Empowering Mothers

Food for the Hungry has been one of my favorite organizations for years. I’ve had the joy of sponsoring several kiddos through them, and while I lived in Uganda I even had the opportunity to meet one of my sponsored kids! During this visit, I got to see what Food for the Hungry (FH) does first-hand, and I was sold. Ever since, I’ve recommended them whole-heartedly!

This month I’ve had the privilege of getting to interview one of FH’s Regional Directors in Uganda, Evelyn Opoto, about some of the hurdles that mothers in the majority world have to face, as well as how FH is partnering with mothers in community development.

The first question I asked Evelyn was for her to describe what it looks like to be mother in the majority world. Often we just don’t realize the many differences in everything from pregnancy and delivery to child raising.

Evelyn answered, “There is a lack of recognition of women’s contribution. Women do a lot as far as development is concerned, but no recognition is paid to their efforts. A low level of education among rural women tends to limit their capacity. There is also a power imbalance between the women and the men, where the men are at higher positions to influence decisions at the family level and the general community. Finally there is violence in marriage that tends to keep most women depressed.”

Such obstacles are accompanied by overwhelming statistics unique to mothers, infants and children in the developing world. However, despite the odds that are stacked against them, mothers around the world continue to be the fearless, strong influencers that play a vital part in a community’s development. FH has recognized this role and partners with mothers throughout the development process.

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Photo courtesy of Food for the Hungry

“Food for the Hungry does appreciate the fact that mothers are critical in a child’s development,” Evelyn informed me. “For that reason we have intentionally targeted mothers for our trainings on health models, since they are better placed to translate these messages for their family and the community. Women also provide the largest labor force in agricultural production, so we have intentionally targeted them for sustainability and development of livelihood projects in our community.”

In addition to training women in health and agriculture initiatives, FH has also guided communities in creating savings groups, an important step toward breaking the cycle of poverty.

“Women have a good savings culture that helps them respond to the shocks and calamities that come on a family,” Evelyn went on. “They form 90% of the total population in a saving group. Hence their resiliency to the shocks are built!”

As we’ve discussed on the blog before, education is one of the biggest keys to community development. Evelyn described the role of a mother in this vital tool: “Women do value their children’s education,  pooling resources for school development and chatting about issues affecting schools. As FH we have intentionally built their capacities for leadership at the management position in school leadership structures, such as parent/teacher association, and school management committees.”

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Photo courtesy of Food for the Hungry

As it pertains to leadership, Evelyn explained how FH empowers women to boldly influence their families and communities. “We have intentionally influenced women to take up leadership positions at various levels of farmers groups, water-user committee structures, village saving structures, and cascade structures, among others.”

Evelyn noted that she has witnessed a tremendous improvement in maternal health since she has worked with Food for the Hungry. “There has been a reduction in maternal death. This has been generally due to persistent awareness creation through cascade teachings, that mothers are made aware of the danger signs in pregnancies and the value for prenatal visits. We’ve also seen reduced cases of child/infant death among the communities where we work, because mothers have improved health-seeking behaviors, prenatal visits, and births at the health facilities.”

“Mothers have provided unique responses in the face of social injustice,” Evelyn continued. “Mothers plead for dialogue, forgiveness, and peace, unlike the men in the community who want to solve issues through violence. This has been seen during land wrangles within the communities. A mother name Seserina played a big role of peace-building in her community. There was a land wrangle between two communities and lives were lost as a result of that. Seserina, despite being a woman, talked to her community to pursue peace instead of violence as they did before. And as such her words saved many people. Men had picked up axes and spears to go and fight their opponents. She pleaded with them and as a result the community listened to her. It all started from the lips of one woman.”

I asked Evelyn if she had any final thoughts to share with our readers. She replied, “Touch the life of a woman, and you have touched the lives of the entire family and the community as a whole. Women are agents of change and advocates for success.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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Photo courtesy of Food for the Hungry

Food for the Hungry works in many countries, creating sustainable paths to development for communities around the world. To learn more about FH, donate toward their initiatives, or sponsor a child, check out their website here.

I am truly grateful to Evelyn for taking the time to chat about motherhood. Another great big thank you goes to Beth Allen, the Senior Communications Manager at Food for the Hungry, who made this interview possible! Both of you are incredible ladies and it has been an honor to work with you.

Next week we’ll be moving on to a new topic, but I can’t emphasize this organization enough. Go check them out!

Chat next week,

xoxo, Robin

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