- Deseret News - Saturday, May 9, 2015

What do mothers in Tanzania have in common with mothers in America?

A lot, said Chrysula Winegar.

“Mothers all have one thing common: They want a better life for their children. Moms everywhere would do anything they can to keep their kids happy and healthy.”

This uniting factor is what makes moms such powerful changers for social good, says Ms. Winegar, a United Nations Ambassador for the Million Moms Challenge, and mother of three from Connecticut.

The power of motherhood has not gone unnoticed by the United Nations Foundation, which held the third annual Moms + Social Good summit in New York last weekend. The summit brought together celebrities — like Jennifer Garner and Jennifer Seinfeld — as well as UN Ambassadors and poverty experts.

“It’s dedicated to the power of mothers to change their communities,” said Ms. Winegar, who spoke at the event about the power that mothers have to strengthen each other and their surroundings.

The event kicked off a “Global Moms Relay” that will run until Father’s Day, in which well-known parents — such as actress Patricia Arquette, Queen Rania of Jordan and Arianna Huffington — will post messages for their hopes for families’ future on the Huffington Post and BabyCenter.org.

These will be joined by posts from everyday moms and dads, and every time one of the posts is shared on social media, Johnson and Johnson will donate $1 to $300,000 to a family centered organization like Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action, an international women and babies’ health organization.

“We know there are moms around the world who can’t afford to send their kids to school, give them nutritious meals, or life-saving vaccinations — but we also know that mothers feel a strong bond with one another, and they want to help each other rise up.”

Moms rising

Ms. Garner, spokeswoman for Save the Children and mother of three, kicked off the Global Moms Summit by speaking about her mother and the sacrifices she made so that her children could get an education.

“All kids are born ready to learn,” said Ms. Garner, “but not all kids are given the same opportunities to learn.”

Ms. Garner called on leaders and women worldwide to provide better educational opportunities for women and girls: “That’s the work we have to do all around the world: child by child, mother by mother,” she said.

Education was a theme that was reinforced by Jeffrey Sachs, economist, author and expert on development and poverty solutions at the Earth Institute at Columbia University, who said the single best thing that can be done to end poverty is to make sure that girls finish school.

“If we can start a global education fund for every girl to make it through secondary education, it will change the world,” said Mr. Sachs. “This is the one thing that I want to say to moms.”

It’s especially important to focus on girls, he said, because of the 57 million children in the world still not in school, the vast majority of them are girls. Girls are “much less likely to be sent to school or to finish school than their brothers are,” said Mr. Sachs.

He points to the success of vaccine programs that have successfully battled disease in places like Africa and India — wiping out polio and malaria in several countries — by teaming up governments with private companies and nonprofits like the Gates Foundation. Now it’s time to do the same with education, he said, calling upon mothers and parents in wealthy countries to advocate for parents and children in poor places.

“We need a fund for kids in Somalia who want an education and to provide money for a building and books, it would require just a little effort. Choose your favorite billionaire and ask him to contribute — tweet Carlos Slim, Bill Gates, the Koch brothers — any one of them could do it by themselves.”

Don’t forget dad

Jessica Seinfeld, wife of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, founded Babybuggy.org, an organization that helps provide families with essential clothing and gear in New York and across the country. Mrs. Seinfeld said her organization is now focused on something that often gets overlooked when talking about helping families — fathers.

At first, Mrs. Seinfeld’s program focused on single mothers, she said, but quickly realized that to help families, it needed to reach out to both parents.

There are 24 million children in America who don’t have a father in the home and the “father factor” is linked to a number of social ills, Mrs. Seinfeld pointed out, including juvenile incarceration, child abuse and poverty.

Children in homes without a father are four times more likely to be poor than children in two-parent homes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and 86 percent of families that Baby Buggy serves are below the poverty line — and most are headed by single mothers.

“We have looked at those numbers for years, and what we have come to focus on is fathers,” she said.

Baby Buggy accepts and distributes donations of new and gently used gear and clothes dads need to take care of their children, including strollers, baby monitors, high chairs and safety gates. Since May 2010, Baby Buggy has distributed over 300,000 items to 20,383 dads and their children.

Baby Buggy also provides financial literacy workshops to teach dads budgeting, debt reduction and saving.

“Research doesn’t bear out the stereotype of ‘deadbeat dads’ for many low-income fathers,” Mrs. Seinfeld noted.

The overwhelming majority of unwed fathers said they want to help rear their child and are actively involved in supporting the mother during pregnancy, according to Columbia and Princeton studies.

Happy mom, happy families

The program closed with a reminder that moms need to take care of themselves — and each other.

Online, women can be hard on each other, says Rosie Pope, maternity expert and fashion designer.

“Whether you’re talking about vaccinations or breastfeeding, what follows on social media is a barrage of criticism, and it can be aggressive, angry and even mean,” said Ms. Pope.

Moms might go back and forth over whether it’s best to introduce solids at 4 months or 6 months, but it won’t make a difference for the child in the long run.

“But it might make the mom happy,” said Ms. Pope. And that’s what matters.

Erica Nicole Kendall, nutritionist and author of the blog “A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss,” emphasizes the role of kindness and empathy, which she tries to emphasize on her blog. “Lots of people come to my space with baggage and shame. If it would hurt me to read it, I don’t write it.”

As Ms. Kendall has done more research into health outcomes and poverty, she’s become more empathetic to others’ challenges. The parallels between inner city communities and developing countries in terms of health are “stark and overwhelming” she says. Sometimes she will post a grocery list, and a reader will respond that she can’t buy that food on food stamps. It’s a good reminder, she said, that we don’t all have the same economic privileges and need to be soft on each other.

It’s easy to lose sight of being easy on yourself when you’re a parent, said Pope, but a lot of parenting is leading by example.

“Of course you want to help the world but start in your house being the mom that you want your children to be,” she said. “They will grow up loving themselves and other people.”


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