© Blog First Steps, IDB´s Social Protection and Health Division 

mothers day

In recent weeks, a commercial, #WorldsToughestJob, has been making the rounds on social media. In the video, a company interviews several people for the position of “director of operations.” During the course of the interview, the characteristics of the position are described to the applicants: it’s a very important job; it requires long periods of standing; there are no breaks; it requires knowledge of medicine, finance and the culinary arts; and it’s unpaid.

The applicants find it increasingly difficult to hide their dismay at the requirements detailed by the interviewer (which the applicants describe with adjectives such as “cruel” and “inhumane,” among others). The interview concludes by revealing that these conditions are, in fact, the working conditions demanded of mothers. And then, just when we’ve realized how selfless moms really are, we’re reminded to send them a card on Mother’s Day (yes, the video is an ad for a greeting card company).

I’d be lying if I didn’t confess that the first time I saw the video, this clever bit of marketing worked its magic on me. It touched me and made me feel infinitely grateful for my mom and, somewhat self-indulgently, my own experience as a mother; it´s just that so much of the work that we do in and outside of the house is still invisible to society´s eyes. Nonetheless, after this initial reaction, I experienced an altogether different one. I felt certain that I didn’t want the image of the “selfless mother” to be the one that my daughters have of me or the one upon which they base their ideas of motherhood. When they’re grown, I don’t want them to remember me as a tired, self-sacrificing woman, always ready to serve with a smile, who forgets about herself and her own needs.

Precisely, in Latin America and the Caribbean, mothers continually struggle in societies that offer unequal opportunities for men and women and present countless adverse circumstances that make women’s lives even more complicated.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Our region has not reached the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for maternal mortality; moreover, it is one of the goals lagging furthest behind.
  2. 80% of unpaid domestic work is done by women.
  3. In Latin America and the Caribbean, one third (link in Spanish) of pregnancies are unplanned.
  4. Physical or sexual violence perpetrated by an intimate partner affects from 13% of women between the ages 15 and 49 in Haiti, to 52% in Bolivia. The same kind of violence occurs during pregnancy (6% to 11% in the region).
  5. 30 to 50 % (link in Spanish) of women experience violence inside or outside the home that has consequences in their health, economic opportunities, rights and wellbeing.
  6. World Bank figures (available from 2005 to 2012 for just 12 countries in the region) reveal that between 12% and 26% of women aged 15 to 19 have had a child or are pregnant (an unweighted average of 20%).
  7. Women hold only 33% of the positions in the region’s highest paid professions.

Despite this disheartening data, this Mother’s Day I invite you to celebrate mothers for being enterprising, joyful, and active, not just selfless. Let’s resolve to incorporate into our collective imagination a celebration in honor of these mothers.

I think if we start to imagine a region full of happy mothers, we’re laying the groundwork to make it a reality. What do you think?

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