Motherly Lessons

We’ve asked hundreds of advocates why they choose to defend rights. Some of them have mentioned their mothers as key influences. Here are the lessons that shaped their lives.

Upper left: Akila Radhakrishnan. Lower left: Fatimah Muhammad. Upper right: Susan Glisson. Lower right: Larry Cox.
Four rights defenders on how their mothers put them on the path to advocacy.

Susan Glisson sums up her mother’s lessons in a powerful rule:

Her mother gave her a sense of curiosity and the ability to empathize with those who were discriminated against. Susan turned that empathy into a career in social justice.

Fatimah Muhamad has early memories of the power of collectives. Her mother instilled in her children an admiration for women who spoke truth to power.

Like Muhammad, Akila Radhakrishnan learned through witnessing her mother’s struggles and bravery from a young age that opportunities and rights were not granted and had to be fought for. She did so by witnessing her mother’s struggles and bravery.

Larry Cox grew up in the home of a single mother. Reflecting on her struggles, he came to understand that poverty was not a matter of chance or the consequence of a lack of effort but a violation of basic human rights. He found his calling amidst his mother’s efforts to survive.

These human rights defenders were put in the path of social justice by the curiosity, bravery, strength of will of their mothers.

Susan Glisson co-founded Sustainable Equity, a consulting firm that works with businesses, communities and state institutions in Mississippi to build community trust.

Fatimah Muhammad is Executive Director at National Network of Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Programs

Akila Radhakrishnan is a human rights lawyer and the president of the Global Justice Center.

Larry Cox is the former co-director of Kairos: The Center on Religions, Rights and Social Justice.

The goal of I Defend Rights is to support human rights defenders by recording and sharing audio accounts narrated by them. We believe that, by doing so, we can ultimately help human rights defenders be safer and more successful in their work. If you want to listen to other stories or you defend rights and want to share your experiences, click here.