As a kid, Mother’s Day to me meant overflowing shopping centres and supermarkets filled with chocolates and flowers and balloons. It was frantic fathers ferrying kids around in search of that perfect gift. Amidst the chaos of this capitalist, Hallmark version of ‘gratitude’, I’d lost sight of what Mother’s Day really meant. I’d become so focused on the gift-giving, I’d forgotten to be truly grateful for the greatest gift my mother had given me—for being the powerful, resilient role model I looked up to, who cared about my education more than anything.
As I entered my twenties, I’ve come to understand the day differently. Not only do I celebrate the value my mother brought to my life, but also the gifts mothers everywhere bring to the world. As we approach Mother’s Day, I spoke with expectant mum, Opportunity Chief Financial Officer Karen Kandur, about how powerful mothers are as agents of change.
“There is a real commonality to the joys and struggles of motherhood,” Karen shares. She points out that despite the vast social differences between her and the women Opportunity serves, mothers everywhere possess fundamental similarities. A key one—the importance of being a role model.
Striving to set the best possible example for her two-year-old daughter in every way, Karen finds Opportunity’s work immensely rewarding as it empowers women in developing countries to do the same as her.
“This idea really resonates with me,” Karen says. “Despite your circumstances, there is a universality to displaying, through example, that your daughter can be anything she dreams of.”
Federica, a loan recipient in Indonesia, with her two youngest children Lidia and Juan.
An Opportunity business loan enables mothers to become role models for their children as they build small businesses and work hard to lift their families out of poverty. Their confidence grows as the businesses succeed and they can afford to put food on the table and send their children to school. As economic contributors to their households, they become respected by their families and local communities. They play a bigger role in decision-making in their households and are empowered business-women who role model successful behaviours to their daughters and other women in their communities.
“You can’t be what you can’t see,” Karen explains, “and this is so important when it comes to empowering mothers in developing countries.”
Karen believes that empowered women completely change communities. “When the community actually sees a Mother lifting herself and her children out of poverty, she sets a standard,” Karen says. “Through leading by example, other women want to be like her. She has become a local leader, who will employ other women in her community. As a small loan recipient grows more confident, they encourage others around them to be like them, to mirror their behaviours and help govern their own destiny on the pathway out of poverty.” In this way, Karen explains that mothers play a vital role in helping future generations to thrive.
After becoming a mother for the first time, she said she suddenly felt an immense responsibility to mould her daughter’s persona, to teach her right from wrong. Everything she did was now in the best interests of her family. She had a new drive: a drive to provide a good future for her daughter. In the same way, the mothers Opportunity serves choose to invest in their children’s futures. This is what sets them apart as powerful as agents of change in breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty—the universal dream and drive for their kids to have more, and be more, than they were.
“These mothers are totally committed to breaking the inter-generational lack of female education, Karen adds, “When I visited families in India with Opportunity I met mothers who’d been granted small loans, and most of them were illiterate. Yet 100 per cent of the women were adamant their daughters would complete their education.” This motherly motivation is something Karen says she has witnessed in her work at Opportunity, time and time again. Despite having faced such hardship, mothers have an unwavering determination that their kid’s life will be different.
From a personal perspective, Karen said she empathised with this idea of striving to be better than the generation before you. Her own mother wasn’t encouraged to study after finishing high school and because of this, Karen’s education was a key priority for her. She wants to instill in her children that same motivation to be better: “The next generation should always be aiming higher,” she says, “aiming to achieve more and be better than the last.”
As I stroll for a gift for my mum this Mother’s Day, I know I will be reflecting on the gifts mothers bring to their families, communities and the world. For their inspiration, resilience and strength, and their drive to model a future for their children that is better.
Give your mum a gift that will help a mother in a developing country journey out of poverty with our Something Bigger charity gift catalogue.