04/08/2013 11:19 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Taking Care of the Mothers Who Take Care of Us

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Mother's Day is next month, and it is an opportunity for each of us to appreciate the role of mothers in our own lives and honor mothers around the world.

Global Health Corps fellows work with mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters and aunts in vulnerable communities across East Africa, Southern Africa, and the United States, who serve as the key decision-makers, educators and healthcare-providers in their families and communities. Our fellows have seen the positive influence these mothers -- or surrogate mothers -- have on households where they live. They drive the improvement of health in their society. They lift up communities and are admired for their guidance, selflessness, and resourcefulness, but they too need nurturing and caretaking in order to thrive.

I spoke with one of our Global Health Corps (GHC) alumna, Maimunat Alex-Adeomi, who shared her perspective on motherhood -- as a mom and as a daughter. Maimunat painted a picture of her own mother's sacrifices for the family and also highlighted the importance of supporting women in their ongoing effort to provide and care for others.


Maimunat Alex-Adeomi with her husband and son

We recognize the work of mothers and all of the other women worldwide who ensure their families receive the vital and necessary care they need to live full and healthy lives. In turn, the global community should offer the support needed to these women.

Barbara: Tell me a bit about your childhood and relationship with your mother.

Maimunat: I was raised in Nigeria by a single mother who did everything in her power to give her children the best life she could. We went to the best schools because as a teacher she knew education was the greatest gift she could give her offspring. We lived in as good a neighbourhood as possible, as she felt the environment we lived in shaped and determined who we would grow up to be. She taught us about hygiene, eating healthily and would rush us to a clinic (even at odd hours of the night) when we were ill.

Everything she did came at a cost to her individuality. She would sacrifice her time, comfort and items she needed just to ensure we had enough. She extended this nurturing and care to others and we regularly had at least one extra person living with or visiting us. We have all grown up to be healthy and successful individuals in the various communities and places we have found ourselves. I wonder what would have been if my mother did not make the sacrifices she made, and still makes, today.


She sounds like an incredible woman! You are very lucky to have her! How has your view of motherhood changed now that you are a mother?

Now I'm a mother and I see first-hand what it takes to raise a child. I think of my son and his needs before anything else. I make decisions with him in mind and look out for what would serve him best in all I do. I have woken up a zillion times in the middle of the night to nurse him to health when he is ill and am always on the lookout for any alarming symptoms. As a physician, I ensure I am doing all I know how to do in preventive health to keep my family healthy and safe.

What do you see as the role of mothers and women in communities?

I think of other mothers out there in various communities. I think of rich and poor mothers, I think of educated and uneducated mothers, I think of healthy and sick mothers and I come to a conclusion. One thing is common to all these women irrespective of socioeconomic status, health status and education levels; they are the driving forces behind the health and well-being of their families and face similar challenges.

Kate Hopper a writer and mother recently wrote in her review of author Renée Peterson Trudeau's new book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family. "I felt renewed, and because I had taken care of myself, I was ready to take care of my family. This is one of the points that Trudeau makes so well in her book. When you really begin to take care of yourself and give yourself the space to think and be, you are, she writes, "wiser and more effective in all areas of your life..."

It is important for women and mothers to have systems in place that enable them take care of themselves. In the home, community, work place or larger society, we must encourage and pursue self-care for women and mothers.

We should care for their physical health; no woman needs to die from pregnancy and or childbirth, and reproductive health should not even be debated and questioned.

We should care for their intellect; education of the girl child should be foremost on any society's agenda.

We should care for their economic status and enable women to be productive members of society by encouraging them to utilize their skills to earn a living.

We should care for their emotions and psychosocial wellbeing. This cannot be overemphasized.

We should keep our women safe. Laws encouraging punitive measures for violence against women should be put in place and strictly enforced irrespective of culture or religious background.

A healthy mother makes a healthy family and a healthy community at large.

Thank you so much for sharing your story! Now it's our turn to share.

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