On Mother’s Day, We Honor Moms Living in Extreme Poverty Worldwide

For women living in poor communities in the Global South, becoming a mother still means risking your and your child’s life. Pictured: One of the mothers supported through a Feed the Minds project in Kenya.

Mother’s Day for many of us means a day when hard working moms are given a rare treat: a special card, breakfast in bed, the children doing the washing up for a change, even chocolates or flowers.

But for millions of mothers in some of the world’s poorest countries, Mother’s Day is yet another day full of tough, heart-breaking challenges.

This Mother’s Day, millions of mothers in some of the world’s poorest countries face challenges like struggling to feed their children, worrying that their seriously ill new baby might not survive, being unable to afford to send their child to school, or having to flee their home because of violence, conflict or extreme climate changes.

The coronavirus pandemic will add to these challenges. 

At Feed the Minds, we know that mothers across the world move mountains every day to give their children a brighter future—despite the challenges they face. They are nurturing, resilient and resourceful. They are nothing short of inspirational.

This is why we are taking the opportunity to honor mothers around the world this Mother’s Day—especially mothers living in extreme poverty. Join us, by sharing our video, Mothers Move Mountains. 

For women living in poor communities in the Global South, becoming a mother still means risking your and your child’s life.

Every day, about 810 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, and millions of women still have to give birth with only a family member to help them and no proper medical care.

The direct link between poverty and maternal mortality rates is clear, too, with 86 percent of an estimated 254,000 global maternal deaths in 2017 having occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.

The lack of access to adequate maternal health care is just one of the challenges mothers face in poor and marginalized communities. So many mothers face injustice, discrimination, poverty, violence and a lack of access to education or training—despite the fact they often form the backbone of their families and communities.

Globally, 330 million women and girls live below the poverty line, having to survive on less than $1.90 a day. And, around the world, around 500 million women have no basic literacy skills. That is millions of mothers who are less able to get work, learn about their rights and who are more vulnerable to poverty and discrimination. Millions of mothers who can’t read with their children.

Yet the mothers we’ve met through our projects find incredible ways of coping with extremely difficult situations, and never give up hope for a better future. We are inspired by their strength and resilience.

Claudine, for example, pictured, is a 23 year-old mother showing incredible resilience raising her children in very difficult conditions. Claudine lives in Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi, which is home to around 40,000 refugees and asylum seekers.

Life in the camp is extremely difficult—especially for women and girls, who face serious economic, social and gender inequality issues.

Despite the challenges Claudine has faced herself, she does a huge amount to support her children and other women and girls in Dzaleka. She is the Executive Secretary for our local partner organisation, AFECOPAD, and helps run our project to improve the quality of life for women refugees through vocational skills training and women’s rights awareness in the camp.

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Practical Education Transforms Life for Mothers and Children

At Feed the Minds, we know there is an evidenced link between increased literacy and improved health. And, increases in maternal education can reduce the likelihood of dying in childbirth.

We run practical education projects in some of the world’s poorest rural communities to help women gain skills and confidence and have a second chance. Our projects give mothers a new start, by learning skills to increase their incomes; by learning new agricultural practices to grow more food; by learning to read, write and count to help them gain life-changing knowledge on health or their rights; or increase their confidence and to have a voice in their communities.

When we work with women, we know their children and whole communities benefit too. As, when mothers can earn more, it means more nutritious food for their children, being able to pay for education, and more access to health care.

In Nepal, for example, we worked in a rural area to give thousands of mothers and adolescent girls literacy skills and life-saving maternal health knowledge. We ran women’s health groups in 75 villages, and by the end of our project, thousands of women and girls had improved knowledge of reproductive, maternal and child health.

In Uganda, we work with rural women farmers, empowering them to earn more and protect themselves from exploitation.

Mirieri, one of the mothers supported through our project in Uganda, reading to her children with her new literacy skills. (Feed the Minds)

In Sierra Leone, we help women set up farming cooperatives to increase incomes and know their rights.

In South Sudan, our project aims to increase food security, mostly for women farmers, which will help them transition from subsistence farming and aid dependency to more sustainable crops and agricultural practices.

In Kenya, we provided vocational training for women like Brenda (pictured) to set up a social enterprise which now generates a sustainable income through the production and sale of reusable sanitary pads.

Before taking part in our project, Brenda was living in extreme poverty struggling to support her family. Her two young children were severely malnourished, and she couldn’t afford to send them to school. It was hard for her to find work given the lack of access she’d had to education and training.

Brenda can now better support herself and her children.

“I’m now earning enough every month from this tailoring enterprise to buy regular nutritious meals for my children,” Brenda said. “They are now growing strong and healthy.”

At Feed the Minds, we are so inspired by the mothers we meet, that we wanted to share their stories today.

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The coronavirus pandemic and the response by federal, state and local authorities is fast-moving. During this time, Ms. is keeping a focus on aspects of the crisis—especially as it impacts women and their families—often not reported by mainstream media. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.


Lynne Stockbridge, of International Development charity Feed the Minds, is a passionate advocate for women and children, and has previously led campaigning for UK charities RNIB, NSPCC and IFAW.