“Mothers” come in many forms- maybe it’s the strong woman who birthed you into this world, or the person you’ve always relied on for advice and comfort in tough times. Regardless, mothers are important and their work in their communities and inspiring the next generation can create enormous change. This Mothers Day we’re celebrating five brave mothers who have worked tirelessly to make the world better, not only for their children, but for everyone;
Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh (Mother Mushroom):
Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, otherwise known as ‘Mother Mushroom’, is a Vietnamese blogger who sought to write and uncover human rights violations in her country. She started blogging in 2006 using the pseudonym ‘Me Nam’ or ‘Mother Mushroom’ which was inspired by the nickname of her youngest child. Despite ongoing harassment, she continued to write and campaign for freedom of speech, before being arrested in October 2016 and sentenced to 10 years in jail for “distributing propaganda against Vietnam”. She served two years in jail and developed serious health issues, while Amnesty International and government bodies pushed to have her released. As part of her release, Mother Mushroom was exiled from Vietnam and resettled in Texas, US (BBC News, 2018). She bravely co-founded the Network of Vietnamese Bloggers, an independent writers association, as well as receiving a Civil Rights Defenders Award in 2015 and International Women of Courage Award in 2017.
Dr Evelyn Scott:
Dr Evelyn Scott came from humble beginnings, the grand-daughter of a Vanuatuan man brought to Australia as a slave. She was born in Ingham, Queensland before moving to Townsville to work in Indigenous rights. She managed to be an attentive mother to five children, whilst also playing a pivotal role in the campaign to change the Constitution to acknowledge Indigenous people in official census data. Dr Scott became the first general-secretary of the Indigenous-controlled Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI) in 1973 as well as chairwoman for the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation in the years 1997 to 2000. She worked tirelessly to improve access to legal, housing, employment and medical services for communities and was passionate about environmental rights, particularly regarding the protection of the Great Barrier Reef (Women Australia 2017). In 2003, Dr Scott was appointed an Officer in the Order of Australia.
Nawal Benaissa is a Moroccan protester, campaigning for the rights of people living in the Northern Rif region. She’s a keen driver of the Hirak movement and has been prosecuted over comments she posted on Facebook in 2017, in which she encouraged residents of Al Hoceima province to join in protests, as well as criticising the use of excessive force by authorities. She was subsequently arrested multiple times, harassed by police and forced to close her Facebook account with 80,000 followers. She told Amnesty International that “I could not accept the way the people of my region were treated. As a mother of four children worried for their future, I deeply understood the reasons that led those young men and women to protest asking for a decent living and social justice”.
Lou Xiaoying was a Chinese woman who worked non-stop to save, care for and raise abandoned babies in the streets of Jinhua, eastern Zhejiang. She earned a living recycling rubbish off the streets, before one day in 1972 when she found an abandoned baby girl in the bins. She took the little girl home and discovered she had a real love and passion for caring for children. Xiaoying had one biological child and adopted four children while passing on countless others to friends and families looking to help. Reports of Xiaoying fostering and adopting more than 20 children started to come to light in 2012 before she died of kidney failure.
Senior Chief Theresa Kachindamoto:
Senior Chief Theresa Kachindamoto of Malawi, left her job of 27 years to move her family of 5 boys back to her rural home of Dedza. She was the youngest of 12 siblings, and when she was summoned back to become the next senior chief, she was shocked to find girls as young as 12 were married with children and teenage husbands. She immediately set to terminating the marriages and sending the couples back to school. She has now reached over 1,500 marriages annulled and gained the nickname “The Terminator” (UN Women 2017). Kachindamoto also worked to ban Kusasa fumbi “cleansing” rituals that forced girls as young as seven into camps where they were taught to “please” men (McNeish, H 2016). She saved countless girls from forced marriages and in 2017 received a Leadership in Public Life Award at the 16th Annual Vital Voices Global Partnership Award Ceremony in Washington, D.C., USA.
These mothers fought to create change and a better place for their children to grow up. Their hard work and dedication not only inspired those in their communities but their stories echoed around the world and were often the catalyst for change.
Words by Dominique Chapman
- BBC News 2018, ‘Mother Mushroom: Vietnam releases well-known dissident into US exile’, 18 October, viewed 8 May 2019, <https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-45898203>
- Allanah Croom 2017, ‘Evelyn Ruth Scott AO’, The Australian Women’s Register, viewed 9th May, <https://www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/AWE6108b.htm>
- Amnesty International 2018, ‘Morocco: End intimidation of Hirak protest leader Nawal Benaissa”, 17 October, viewed 10th May 2019, <https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/10/morocco-end-intimidation-of-hirak-protest-leader-nawal-benaissa/>
- McNeish, H 2016, “Malawi’s fearsome chief, terminator of child marriages”, Al Jazeera, viewed 10th May 2019, <https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/03/malawi-fearsome-chief-terminator-child-marriages-160316081809603.html>
- UN Women 2017, “When girls are educated, everything is possible”, UN Women Stories, viewed 9th May 2019, <http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2017/3/news-malawi-chief-receives-vital-voices-award>