Radical roots of Mother’s Day: women coming together to resist inequality

Christina Cadore | Mar 29, 2019

With Mother’s Day around the corner it’s about that time of year where people up and down the country are scrambling to cobble together last minute gifts and homemade cards. While we’re inundated with images of flowers, chocolates and spa days as ways to celebrate some of the most influential women in our lives, the origins of Mother’s Day is a world away from the Hallmark holiday we recognise it as today.

Uganda mother with baby

Mother’s Day: Feminist resistance

The origins of Mother’s Day in the UK is an interesting and complex one. Originally a Christian holiday in which people were encouraged to go back to their ‘mother church’ on the middle Sunday of Lent, the day gained popularity and changed meaning through the American celebration. Started in 1872 by poet, author and social activist Julia Ward Howe the day was originally designed as an anti-war movement named ‘Mother’s Peace Day’. Far from scented lotions and cream teas, the tradition of this day has roots in feminist activism and began life as a radical form of patriarchal resistance which brought women together in a movement to counter violence and oppression. 

Throughout history women have resisted societal norms and challenged ideas that would limit their rights. Women the world over continue to work towards the common goal of realising rights for women, this Mother’s Day we celebrate just some of these women doing that today.

Mother’s Day and beyond: Ugandan women rising up

Ugandan women standing strong together
In the tradition of women coming together throughout history to enact change, thousands of women in Uganda today are continuing powerful collective action. Currently 300,000 rural women in Northern and Western Uganda have been evicted from their homes, or are facing eviction, and up to a million women are expected to be affected in the next six years. 

The land grabs have taken hold with oil mining and industrial scale farming forcing rural communities off their land. For hundreds of thousands of women the direct result of this forceful eviction extends beyond losing a home, and is also the loss of farming land and income. As women are frequently the primary caregivers, this loss of land has left mothers unable to feed their families.

In the face of forced evictions, a new movement of brave women is coming together to resist the land grabs. By joining forces, rural women in Uganda are investing in their families’ futures and striving to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. Through support of Womankind partners National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) and National Association for Women’s Action in Development (NAWAD), women are being empowered to stand up for their rights.

This growing movement is working across different levels to achieve women’s economic rights including:

  • Working towards fair and adequate compensation when their land is taken away.
  • Ensuring that women get legal ownership of their land.
  • Setting up alternative income generating activities.

The strength and resilience of women in these communities is not only inspirational but also echoes the feminist activist roots of Mother’s Day.

Reconnecting with Mother’s Day

So this Mother’s Day, as well as celebrating and spoiling the mothers, caregivers and supportive friends in our lives, why not take the opportunity to reconnect with the day’s feminist roots and celebrate women who continue to come together to resist adversity. Your support can empower women’s movements in Uganda helping women to realise their rights and reclaim their land. To support these women, we’re hoping to raise £1,000 for our Mother’s Day crowdfund. Donate here

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