Header image of Ruth and her children.
This Sunday marks Mothering Sunday in the UK and we wanted to take the opportunity this year to celebrate mothers that often go overlooked. We chatted with 3 of our lovely artisans and friends - Jemimah, Ruth and Topista - and asked them what it is like to be a mother in Africa. Many of the mothers we have met on our travels throughout Africa seem to have 1 main thing in common - they work hard and take nothing for granted! All of the ladies we have spoken to for this journal post are single mother, which is fairly common in Africa. Co-founder Bee says that most of the women she has met throughout Africa are single parents and so they often have to work twice as hard to provide for their children. We find their strength and resilience inspirational, and that is why we work hard to support women's group in particular through our work. Many of the artisans we work with are single mothers, and the beautiful products they craft for us help to support them and their families. There are many struggles for Mothers in Africa, and the dedication that these incredible women have for their children is heart-warming. Whilst motherhood in Africa looks very different to motherhood in the Western world, but a mothers love transcends culture and language. Here is what Jemimah, Ruth and Topista have to say about what it means to be a Mum.
Can you tell us a little bit about your children?
Topista: I have 3 children – Richard who is 25 years old, Ivan who is 14 and Henry who is 12. All of my children are still in education. I am HIV positive and so is Henry which saddens me.
Ruth: I have two biological children, Bridget Monica who is 22 who has a diploma in Accountancy and Murenda Christian Douglas who is 11 years old and in 6th form in Primary school. I also have adopted children whom I took in as they have no family. Caro is also in year 6 primary school and Rebecca who is a single mother to a little girl called Lucky who is 2 years. To me they are all my children equally and we are a very happy family.
Jemimah and her daughters Debrah and Tinnah
What was your childhood like and did it affect how you have raised your children?
Jemimah: My childhood was not easy because I come from a marginalized community where a girl child was not educated. Also as a Massai, the community was practicing female genital mutilation. My disability hindered me from playing with other peer groups because they thought i was sick. I was exempt from activities like fetching water & firewood. Although my childhood was difficult I have made sure it has not affected my children because I have always strived to give them the best.
What is the most important thing you have taught your children?
Topista: To respect other people and to work hard. They all do brick laying now when they are not at school to help with food in the house.
What has been your proudest moment of being a mother?
Topista: When my children are happy and not sick.
Ruth: When my children asked me to bless them so that they work hard which will help them to go out and do good in the world.
What is your favourite thing about being a Mum?
Topista: Just spending time with my children and being able to share mealtimes with them.
Ruth: Working together with my children and sharing a home with them.
Jemimah: Being a mum makes me feel content because my children are the source of my joy.
What do you find difficult about being a Mum?
Topista: Having enough money to feed my children and pay for their education.
Ruth: I worry about not being able to give my children the best and I work hard in order to feed them, clothe them and put them through school.
Jemimah: As a disabled mum living in Kenya, it is not easy. I have to wake up very early to clean and prepare for them. I take them to school and then after school I pick them up. We use public transport which is chaotic and not very disability friendly and the roads are very dangerous in Mombassa where we live. As they only have one set of school clothes whilst they do their homework I handwash their clothes and once they are dry iron them. I worry about not being able to pay the rent and being evicted from our home.
Topista's children at work, laying bricks
What hopes do you have for your children's future?
Topista: That they get a good edutain and get good jobs to support the families
Ruth: To build our own house which will be our home and to have an Arts and Crafts Gallery to sell what we (and the groups I work with) make
Jemimah: My hope is to give my Children the best I can in their education so that they can be leaders of tomorrow. I wish my children could join higher learning institutions in UK or US, so they are guaranteed a good education. Education is very very important to me.
What advice would you give to a new Mum?
Topista: Love your children no matter what
Ruth: Make sure the man you are with is loyal and do not fall pregnant by mistake. Always love your children no matter what and work hard to give them a good life.
Jemimah: My advice to young mums is that when you decide to have a child to recognise that childbirth has a lot of responsibility. Always listen to your children & create time with them physically & give them an opportunity to learn doing different activities. If you come from a well off family take your children to the less fortunate so that they can learn from them too.
We would like to say a huge thank you to Topista, Ruth and Jemimah for taking the time to speak with us so openly and from the heart. We think they are all incredible mothers and wish them and every other Mum around the world a very happy Mother's Day. You can read more about Jemimah and her activism work in our previous interview with her here.