Honoring Mothers Globally This Mother’s Day

The current political climate has thrust important conversations about women’s rights and their individual agency around when, how, and if they choose to become mothers into the national forefront. While women’s reproductive rights are threatened at seemingly every turn, let’s celebrate this Mother’s Day by reinforcing our commitment to women globally; ensuring they have decision making authority, access to education, and full control over the choice to become mothers.

Mother’s Day tends to evoke immediate considerations of mothers we know in our day to day lives, complete with Hallmark imagery of cards and flowers. The date was denoted as a national holiday in 1914; aiming to honor the sacrifices mothers made for their children. But the truth is that millions of women around the world don’t have a voice in determining the future for themselves, their families, or their communities. This year, let’s remember that sexual health and reproductive rights are at the heart of gender equity and that every pregnancy should be safe, every child wanted, and human rights atrocities like child marriage and female genital cutting are things of the past.

This is a strategic moment for women’s rights, and frankly, the future of motherhood. Amid draconian funding cuts, the weeks and months ahead will have dire impacts on millions of women and girls across the world and lead to devastating effects on the health of the most vulnerable. In too many areas, the lack of control that women and girls have over their own bodies is an egregious violation of human rights.

Family planning has been a fundamentally transformative element in women’s empowerment, both domestically and abroad. By exercising reproductive choice, women have been able to expand their role in the private sector and society at large. When women are able to plan their pregnancies around their own goals, they are more able to gain an education, secure an income, and fully participate in their communities.

However, access to contraception and sexual health services remains out of reach for far too many women and girls. Every day, 800 women die from causes related to childbirth and pregnancy. Over 200 million women have an unmet demand for effective contraception. Every year, 15 million girls are married before the age of 18. That’s one every two seconds, representing an unacceptable violation of human rights.

In response to funding cuts that will significantly harm women and girls around the world public-private partnerships, donors and NGOs now have to a fill a greater demand — both financially and operationally — than ever before to provide and empower women with options for reproductive health and contraceptive means.

We’ve come a long way, but there’s still work to do. From 2013 to 2016, we’ve worked with over 600 health care providers in Kenya and South Africa to serve more than 200,000 women with reproductive health needs. But the obstacles facing women and mothers around the world are many, and now more than ever we’re committing ourselves to stand up for our sisters globally.

Today is an occasion to recognize and celebrate the role of women and mothers. Let’s honor them by working tirelessly to ensure that every mother has made a conscious choice.