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This week, we take a moment to pay homage to motherhood. We acknowledge the unique challenges mothers are experiencing due to the pandemic and express our gratitude for the unconditional love and care they continue to bestow.
We salute the mothers who are putting on protective gear to provide healthcare, counselling and safety information.
Hasina Akhter, area manager of BRAC Skills Development Programme in Cumilla, is a mother of two, and has been working at BRAC for 13 years. Her children live with her mother in Dhaka. Every weekend, Hasina commutes from Cumilla to Dhaka to see them.
During the lockdown imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hasina remained in Cumilla to perform her duty of ensuring mass awareness-raising activities on the ground. While she was away, her daughter fell severely ill. After obtaining special permission and taking all necessary precautions, Hasina travelled back to Dhaka.
Her daughter’s eyes lit up with happiness as soon as Hasina reached home. Resisting the urge to immediately take her little child in her arms, Hasina first removed her personal protective equipment and cleansed herself before finally greeting her child.
‘As a mother, I feel I need to be more responsive to my children’s needs. Daily follow-ups and frequent updates from the child’s caregiver may help identify any concerns or forecast any issues a child may experience. This may help me take better care of them,’ says Hasina Akhter.
We empathise with mothers whose children are frontline staff at airports, police check-posts and testing centres. Mothers who are far away from their children. Mothers who are facing new challenges head on.
‘During the beginning of the pandemic, I was taking more than 50 phone calls throughout the day, providing health care advice and mental health counseling.
“The slot was from 9am to 5 pm, but people were fearful of the virus and their futures. The phone calls lasted for long hours’, says Dr Mithun Gupta, a senior sector specialist of BRAC Health, Nutrition and Population Programme.
Mithun is in charge of a project called Mothers@Work, and its activities include initiatives to ensure maternity rights and promote breastfeeding for Bangladesh’s largest women’s workforce of the export-oriented ready-made garments industry.
Mithun, who has a five-year old daughter, has been conducting her work from home. Her partner, who is also a doctor, has been working from a hospital in Dhaka. Mithun is concerned for her partner’s safety, and hopes that he does not bring the virus home.
BRAC is privileged to recognise these mothers, who are the epitome of dedication and resilience during this time. Mothers who are working from home or at the field to ensure emergency aid reaches those in need, reporting from the frontline of the COVID-19 outbreak or conducting lessons in virtual classrooms, while concurrently taking care of their family’s needs.
To prevent an added humanitarian crisis in the already vulnerable conditions in the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, 24 Rohingya volunteers are working with UN Women to mobilise their communities and raise awareness on COVID-19.
“To prevent this disease, we need to provide more awareness on personal cleanliness, hand-washing and the do’s and don’ts when one is sick,” says Mobina Khatun, 45, a Rohingya volunteer in the Ukhiya region of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
Mobina conducts door-to-door visits every day with women across Camp 4, providing life-saving information to stop the spread of COVID-19, while observing physical distancing. She worries about the impact COVID-19 will have on female-headed households in the camps, because of the prevailing social norms and women’s traditional role as primary caregivers.
“If the mother is affected, then all her children are vulnerable”. – Mobina Khatun, Rohingya volunteer, Camp 4, Ukhiya, Cox’s Bazar.
We are grateful to those mothers who are navigating virtual classrooms, so no child is left behind and there is no loss to education.
Scholastica Olomi is the area manager, Early Childhood Development (Yidan Prize Project) at BRAC in Tanzania. Her daughter is a year-and-a-half old, who often interrupts her mother during virtual meetings and sessions. “As we are working from home, I am constantly glued to my phone. As the area manager, I have to be in touch with all the mentors and programme participants”, shares Scholastica.
Teaching online requires more preparation than classroom-based lessons. Scholastica added that though it is difficult to concentrate on work while her daughter wants her attention, she is grateful to be able to spend time with her and see her grow.
We witness mothers who are consistently responding to professional needs during this outbreak. They are caring for all of us.
Women like Hasina, Mithun and Scholastica are all around us – taking on multiple roles while continuing to make profound contributions to the world around them. While the world comes together on Mothers’ Day to pay ode to mothers near and far, mothers continue to play instrumental roles in reshaping the world as we know it today, every day.
Thank you, mothers.
Ayesha Haque is Team Lead, Programme and Enterprise Communications, BRAC – and a proud mother to Ruqayyah Ahmed Inara