Why I’m taking baby Rosa on her first march for Mother’s Day
With a name like Rosa perhaps you’d think she has no choice – her namesakes Rosa Parks and Luxemburg were two revolutionary heroines in the fight for global justice and equality. But becoming a mum has given me further reasons for wanting to make sure my baby (and her dad) attend the Walk in Her Shoes rally and march on Sunday 6 March – my very first mother’s day as Mum.
Three main reasons spring to mind:
Like all first time mums, child birth was a pretty daunting prospect. But as we sat in the NCT classes I often reminded myself that unlike most women around the world, my chances of a safe and pain free delivery were a million times better than women I had met in hospitals in Bangladesh and South Sudan. The latter country remains one of the most dangerous places in the world to have a baby – with a staggering one in seven mothers dying. Maternal health rightly remains central to the new UN global development goals, and securing women’s rights to choose if and when they have children – and then ensure they live when they do so – has still got to be the foundation of achieving gender equality.
The care economy:
Next up, I’ve had to think about how to balance work life with having a child. I’m lucky to live in the UK where people have fought long and hard for statutory maternity pay and where shared parental leave is now at least a possibility. But this is not the case for the majority of women globally. If women are to achieve their full potential, socially and politically, and if we are to economically empower millions more women, then improved social security and maternity leave to support child care has to become a reality. Women can’t continue to invisibly underpin the global economic system by caring for children, the elderly, and their communities without some wider recognition and practical support. Mexico has measured the economic value of domestic and care work at 20% of its GDP (higher than manufacturing at 16%!). More countries need to start to calculate this value and adapt their public policies accordingly.
Dad’s and sons need to join us too:
I struggled with breast feeding and ended up using bottles of formula milk. Once I’d got over the angst of not giving my child the best start, I focused on the fact that the benefits included my husband being able to share the feeding (including in the middle of the night!). Yet every baby class I attend, it’s all women. I spot some men walking the streets with prams as I pound the local neighbourhood and I beam at them. But there’s no doubt that despite paternity leave (NB in our case this wasn’t fully paid) and shared parental leave most men are still pretty isolated from sharing the caring in early months. And yet men are key allies in helping and in shifting the attitudes and practices which maintain inequality. My husband is a proud feminist (and frequently reminds me that he knew what Spare Rib was when I didn’t). We need to enable and encourage more men to share in child care and to be seen as fatherhood role models.
In addition to all the above reasons, my emotional connection to gender inequality and social injustice has also been re-awakened. It’s sad but true that after 20-odd years working on human rights and development issues you can get a little hardened to the heart breaking stories of grinding poverty, conflict and abuse.
But the current news reports of the horrors of the refugee crisis really get to me, as I imagine how different my own child’s chances would be if she had been born in different circumstances.
So the three of us and my own mother will proudly be marching on Sunday the 6th in solidarity – so grateful for what we have and with a renewed urgency that more women and girls have their rights respected.
by Alice Allan, Head of Advocacy at CARE International UK – currently on maternity leave
Join Alice and baby Rosa at CARE International’s Walk in Her Shoes event in London on Sunday March 6 – the inspiring morning includes appearances from Annie Lennox, comedy from Bridget Christie, music from Sister Sledge and talks from campaigners including Emmeline Pankhurst's great-grand-daughter Dr Helen Pankhurst.
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