By Violette Nalutaaya
Mama Aisha (not her real name), the first wife in a polygamous marriage, goes to the garden every morning from 6:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m., when she comes home to prepare lunch. In the afternoon she attends a tailoring class and mid-week she finds time to go to the village bank. In the evenings Mama Aisha is either back to the garden or at the river washing clothes. She cares for 16 people including her children, relatives and visitors who may stay overnight or for weeks.
She is just one of many mothers that I call “drivers” of their families, here in Budaghali, Eastern Uganda where I work.
The responsibilities mothers must attend to, from morning to dusk, are equivalent to a demanding full time job. In the mornings they go to the gardens, engage in businesses like village banking, selling rice, and tailoring. In the evenings they will be involved in selling food roadside, planting maize, preparing food for their families, and creating clean homes. These mothers are a big determinant of their families health: they look after food security, literacy and eventually the employment of their children.
Families are blessed to have a close knit community that extends beyond blood relatives for support and compassion.
Mothers have a huge influence on the conditions of their children’s lives. Conditions in which children are nurtured on a daily basis, at least in part, shape who they become. In the long-term this affects their health, and their life expectancy. Children’s confidence, self-esteem, negotiation skills, and ability to build a professional network all starts in the home. Mothers will go the extra mile to nurture everyone in their homes, so if there is an opportunity to help children thrive, then investment should be in the mothers! Every time I interact with the mothers in Budahagali village, I see that every coin invested in these mothers results in countless returns for the family.
This year my co-fellow and I are charged with tackling one of the greatest problems in Budhagali: to help mothers give birth in places that are dignified. Most of the mothers here have limited access to hospitals. They may not realize that the limited access to antenatal care available may put their child at risk for health complications later in life. These kinds of insights should help inform programming for NGOs and policy makers in health.
I salute the mothers in Budaghali, mothers in Uganda and mothers at large for their unwavering efforts to support their families, and challenge all to support them in nurturing healthier communities.
This blog comes to us from Global Health Corps.