Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog.
Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.
#WorldMom Tes Solomon Silverman with Loyce Maturu (Advocacy Officer, Africaid Zvandiri) from Zimbabwe
Two weeks ago, I was chosen to represent World Moms Network at the RESULTS International Conference’s Social Media Corps. World Moms Elizabeth Atalay and Cynthia Changyit Levin were also there to guide me through this conference. RESULTS International Conference is held at Washington DC every year, bringing together experts to speak about ways to eradicate poverty in the US and other parts of the world.
I have always thought of myself as being aware of what’s happening in the world, but I was wrong. During the four day conference I was blown away by the speakers and their stories and how naive I have been with regards to poverty.
I listened to speakers like Tianna Gaines-Turner (RESULTS Advocate & Expert on Poverty) & Angela Sutton (RESULTS Advocate & Expert on Poverty) who spoke about their struggle to feed their families with the help of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). I heard about how crucial it is to keep this program going.
In Sutton’s words, “it affects anyone and everyone, so we must bridge the gap to understand that poverty doesn’t discriminate”.
In addition to addressing poverty, issues that affect women and children both in the US and in other countries were discussed. Of the speakers that I heard, the one that made an impact on me was Loyce Maturu (Advocacy Officer, Africaid Zvandiri) from Zimbabwe. Maturu lost her mother and brother to AIDS in 2000. As devastated as she was about their deaths, she was unprepared for how her life would further change when she was diagnosed in 2004 at the age of 12 with HIV and tuberculosis. Living in a country where fear of the unknown and the stigma surrounding HIV and tuberculosis made it difficult for Maturu to remain where she lived so she was sent to live with her aunt and uncle.
For most people, being sent to live with family could be seen as a blessing, but for Maturu, it was a nightmare that added to her feeling of isolation. She was physically and emotionally abused by her relatives, and even had thoughts of taking her own life in 2010 because she felt alone.
Her life changed when she able to receive treatment as a result of programs funded by the Global Fund. Founded in 2002, the Global Fund is a financing institution designed to establish partnerships between governments, communities and the private sector, with the goal of ending AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as epidemics. Since its inception, programs supported by the Global Fund have saved 17 million lives and are on target to reach 22 million lives by the end of 2016.
While treatment for Maturu was available, access to medication was difficult because of drug shortages. In addition, one had to travel long distances to get access to medication and families couldn’t afford to pay the transport necessary to get to a facility.
For Maturu, now 24, the Global Fund has made it possible for her to get the treatment she needs to be able to tell her story. Since 2009, she has been a volunteer peer counsellor, going to schools and sharing her story by about living with HIV, especially to adolescents and young people who are affected by the stigma associated around AIDS. She believes it is important to educate people that adolescent and young people can lead healthy lives even if affected by HIV and tuberculosis.
Maturu believes that continued financial support of the Global Fund is crucial in fighting diseases of poverty. This September, funding for it is up for replenishment. Every three years, the Global Fund holds a pledging meeting where donors make specific financial commitments to support the fight against HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria. This year, the United States is being asked to continue its pledge of ⅓ of the Global Fund’s requested $13 billion, as it has three years ago.
According to Maturu, “the Global Fund transforms lives and gives us hope to continue to fight and end these epidemics”.
As someone who has never been afflicted by HIV or tuberculosis, I can’t imagine the heartache and desperation Maturu felt after being diagnosed. Her determination and courage to fight every obstacle she came across with, to receive treatment and live through them is inspiring. As a parent, all I want is for my family to stay healthy and be able to provide a future for my child, but I also know that a health crisis or job loss can alter it in an instant.
As a journalist whose job is to inform others about what I learned from the RESULTS conference, I do so by relaying the stories of Tianna Gaines-Turner, Angela Sutton and Loyce Maturu. By telling their stories, I hope to bring awareness to issues of poverty here and other parts of the world. No one is immune to sickness or crises, but with education and awareness, a lot can be done to fight these issues.
In Maturu’s words, “If I’m going to live in this world, I want to share my story and let people know that they can have healthy, happy lives”.
At the end of the day, don’t we all want the same thing?
To find out about more about RESULTS, click below:
Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.
In case you hadn’t heard, Portugal won the European Football Cup last week (or soccer for those of you reading this across the Atlantic). It’s a big deal because Portugal’s national team has never (ever ever) won a major competition. I was in a park watching the match on the big screen with family and friends but even someone hidden away in their closet all night would have heard the shouting, honking, banging and clashing celebrations going on all over Portugal once the referee blew the final whistle.
I’ve never really been into football, partly because my parents used to groan every time their precious news programme was postponed due to extra time but also because I found it difficult to decide where my allegiance lay. It seemed like true fans were so fervent about their club or their country. I had no idea who to support: I was born in Germany to an English mother. It was abundantly clear to me that being English was no better than being German – it was just different, so why would I want the England team to win over the German one? For a long time I avoided the question of “Who’s side are you on?” by saying I just wasn’t into football.
Then I married a Brazilian. Brazilians are really into football. I mean REALLY. It was easy to support my husband’s club because it represented the Brazilian state I first moved to and, well, he is my husband. During the World Cup 2010 we resolved any possible conflict by rooting for Uruguay, a better fit for my southern-born husband who identifies much more with Argentinian and Uruguayan Gaúcho culture than the carneval and samba of Rio de Janeiro. Plus, I always love supporting the underdog. In this manner, two World Cups went by without a glitch (well…unless your Brazilian!). And then we moved to Portugal.
Now the main event was suddenly the European Cup and once again my allegiances felt split. Should I support Germany? I hadn’t lived there in a decade and didn’t identify much with the team’s powerhouse approach. England? As a foreign-born British national it always felt odd to support “England” rather than “Great Britain” but supporting Scotland or Wales would have been even odder. What about Portugal? Once again it didn’t feel quite right. We live in Portugal but none of our family is Portuguese, I don’t know any of the players except for Ronaldo. So, once again, I sat on the fence and simply ignored the football events around me.
And then Portugal won the quarter finals. Then the semi-finals. Something was in the air. Splashes of red and green, the colours of Portugal’s flag, began appearing all over town, in windows, on cars, on people’s clothing. I commented on a stranger’s lovely vibrant red top and she told me it was “in honour of Portugal”. The day of the finals I was walking along the beach with my son. Everything was red and green: vendors were selling Portuguese scarves, all the bars had a flag in the window and I even saw a whole family of four decked out in Portuguese team shirts.
Something inside me shifted. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s easy to ignore the fact that I’m living in Portugal. I’m surrounded by expats, my family and few Portuguese friends. Expat life ALWAYS comes with it’s fair share of annoyances and it’s so easy to imagine that “home” (wherever that may be) would be better, faster, cleaner, easier. But that day on the beach I realised how many good things Portugal had brought me and my family. It had become a home, a place full of laughter and friends, sunshine, walking in the hills, jumping in the surf, drinking wine under the setting sun.
It deserved my support.
I wish I could say I went to watch the final game that night decked out in red and green. I didn’t or rather couldn’t. But although my wardrobe is decidedly monochrome my heart was beating for Portugal. And when the crowds stood up to cheer, my little Brazilian-Anglo-German family was cheering right there with them.
Have you ever supported a national or local team while living abroad? What about your kids?
This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Julie Dutra in Portugal.
Julie, her husband and baby boy are currently living in Portugal, having spent the previous three years in the southeast of Brazil.
She considers herself a bit of an obsessive reader, and even more so since discovering she was pregnant. All that information has to go somewhere, which is why Julie started her blog, happy mama = happy baby, where she documents all the quirky parenting ideas she has collected so far.
As a muslim student in London, I was persistently challenged by my professors for my religious beliefs. At the time I didn’t understand why they constantly questioned my beliefs. They regularly asked why I pray. The told me me that fasting was inhumane. They questioned how I could to marry someone I never had an intimate relationship with. This was not just one professor. It was a reoccurring theme in many of my classes and conversation, at some point during the term, would come back to this.
Growing up in Saudi Arabia I never actually thought of any of these things. I was born in a muslim country to a muslim family and studied Islamic studies in school. It wasn’t a choice it, was the way we lived. In a way, these questions were a blessing. They forced me to do what the Quran asked us to do over and over again, to think and to verify and reach our own conclusions.
Islam, contrary to popular belief, does not suppress free thought.
In fact, my faith implores us to use our intellect and question all that is around us. When faced with tough questions about my faith and the reasons behind my way of life, I had to now explore for myself why we do what we do.
The five pillars of Islam, without which you are not a muslim, are:
Shahada: sincerely believing that there is only one God and that Mohammed is his prophet.
Praying 5 times a day.
Fasting the month of ramadan
Giving from your money to the poor (zakat)
Performing pilgrimage to Mecca.
When challenged by my professors, I could confidently say I understood and believed why we did all five of pillars. However, when I was questioned why God needs us to pray 5 times a day, I struggled to explain and resorted to “because we have to.” I will never forget one of my professors saying, “What kind of a God would NEED you to pray to him five times a day? That sounds really needy and insecure.” I remember being angry and frustrated, but mostly angry with myself because I didn’t know how to answer him.
Praying five times a day was just something we did. I knew we stood in the hands of God when we did it. I knew it was integral to being a muslim. But I could not understand, in a religion where everything you do benefits the people around you and the world as a whole, where praying fit in with wellness and peace.
Something dawned on me recently which has been truly life changing. It may seem obvious, or even a little ridiculous that I hadn’t made this realisation earlier in my life. This comes from taking advantage of something I’ve have done all my life. First, I did it because I was told to. Later, although it gained meaning and spirituality as I grew, it was still almost an unconscious act in times. Like brushing your teeth. I sit here, having just finished my morning prayer, in awe of how beautiful my religion is and in utter confusion of how it could in any way be misconstrued as something hateful or violent. It truly baffles me.
So what was my realisation about prayer? That it is totally and utterly for myself in every sense of the word. It is a completely selfish act – the opposite of the idea proposed by my college professor that only a needy God would demand we prostrate ourselves to him five times a day. I had nothing to tell my professor then except that God doesn’t need us to pray to him. I was lost for an answer when asked, “Why?” How could I not have seen this before!
Praying only ever benefited us. No one else. God didn’t need us to pray – we ourselves needed to. Every way we turn now people are talking to us about the importance of mindfulness and conscious living. They encourage us to take meditation classes and learn breathing techniques. They talk about the rush of life and how we have to learn how to pause during our day and reflect. I always knew that praying is meant to be spiritual and meditative, but yet it never occurred to me that God commanded us to pray 5 times a day to make us better people! That he demanded that we do this as a selfish act! And act that makes us calmer, happier, more grateful and therefor makes us better people to be around.
I am fasting now so I stay up until Fajr prayer (the first prayer before sunset). I wash for prayer, remembering my teacher saying when I wash for prayer I am washing all my sins away. When I wash my hands I wash away whatever sins I may have committed with them. When I wash my mouth I am washing any mean or hateful words I may have said. When I was my ears and I am washing any sins from gossip I have allowed myself to hear. This makes me more mindful of everything I have done during the day that I maybe shouldn’t have.
After performing my ablutions, I stand in God’s hands and say my prayers. I am deliberate, quiet, slow and careful to concentrate on the words I am saying and the actions I am doing. I end by having a conversation with God. I speak what is in my mind and my heart and I prepare for bed with prayers for my family, for my lost love ones, for the world and for a better day tomorrow.
I wake up and repeat the process. Standing for the second time in between the hands of God, I set my intentions for my day. Two hours later, when I am at work and feeling overwhelmed, upset, angry or rushed, I stop and stand for a third time in the hands of God. These breaks, these chances for mindfulness and conscious living have been the reason for better decisions, apologies, different actions. They force me to reflect and sit with myself, looking inwards to what I have been doing.
Evening approached and maghreb prayer is being called. Time to break our fast and thank God for everything we have. Time to have a date and water then stand for the fourth time between Gods hands, this time thinking about what we have contributed during the day. Giving us pause towards the end of a tiring day to collect ourselves, centre ourselves and be more patient. Pausing for prayer has saved me from many arguments with my kids and others.
And finally, before the day effectively ends and the night starts to become morning, I have a fifth chance to stand between the hands of God and thank Him for being alive, for being healthy, for having a day full of family, love, productivity and blessings. I set my intentions for the next day and make peace with what this last day held.
For over 1,400 years, Muslims have been performing this selfish act of praying to a God that loves us so much he demanded we take care of ourselves and our needs and our hearts and souls five times a day. We do this, not to benefit anyone but ourselves. Allahu Akbar*. (God is Great)
*I want to reclaim this phrase for what it really means and when it is meant to be used. God is great is used when we are overwhelmed and overcome with emotions, it is the first word out of my mouth when I am moved by beauty or sadness. This video by Ameera Altaweel shows the essence of what Allahu Akbar really is and I would like to share it with you.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mama B. of Saudi Arabia.
Mama B’s a young mother of four beautiful children who leave her speechless in both, good ways and bad. She has been married for 9 years and has lived in London twice in her life. The first time was before marriage (for 4 years) and then again after marriage and kid number 2 (for almost 2 years). She is settled now in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (or as settled as one can be while renovating a house).
Mama B loves writing and has been doing it since she could pick up a crayon. Then, for reasons beyond her comprehension, she did not study to become a writer, but instead took graphic design courses. Mama B writes about the challenges of raising children in this world, as it is, who are happy, confident, self reliant and productive without driving them (or herself) insane in the process.
Mama B also sheds some light on the life of Saudi, Muslim children but does not claim to be the voice of all mothers or children in Saudi. Just her little "tribe." She has a huge, beautiful, loving family of brothers and sisters that make her feel like she wants to give her kids a huge, loving family of brothers and sisters, but then is snapped out of it by one of her three monkeys screaming “Ya Maamaa” (Ya being the arabic word for ‘hey’). You can find Mama B writing at her blog, Ya Maamaa . She's also on Twitter @YaMaamaa.
It’s never easy for a mother to confess to her child that she has found herself lacking. Nevertheless we all know that acceptance of a situation allows insight and wisdom to change and evolve.
I used to be an investment banker, a trainer and a teacher before my son’s birth. Of all these vocations, teaching seemed to bring the maximum joy. When he arrived I vowed to be a good mother. Motherhood joined hands with my outer-world pursuits. Over time, I began realizing some things.
I had always been inspired and energized by my MBA students. My interactions with them seemed to have creativity, encouragement and the giving of space. When talking to them, I would stretch my thinking to meet their perspectives. I stayed alert to their changing moods and allowed their feedback to shape my inputs for them. Most importantly, I never dreamt of burdening them with my expectations.
Here’s the irony: Why did I then find it difficult to maintain the same approach with my son? Why did my attitude change? With him, my mind seemed to live in a rigid skin of “ought-to” and “ought not to”. I often foolishly persisted with my original plans, even when he seemed to indicate a need for change of pace or approach – a misapplied lesson in persistence.
Other mothers assured me it was natural to want the child to work towards excellence. As a professor, I also wanted each of my students to work towards excellence. So why the schism?
I remember the times he would sit to colour; What he wanted to do and what I thought was “right” would usually be diametrically opposite to each other! When he chose to sit down to create yet another unique vehicle using Lego blocks, and I would wonder why he wasn’t out and about with friends in the playground? In retrospect, it seems so silly that I allowed his choices and decisions to baffle me. I thought like a mom, not like a teacher. As a teacher, I was geared up towards a much wider spectrum of acceptance. I was happy to use creativity and patience to deal with differences of thought. As a mom, this approach was not always there.
When he invariably followed his own heart (for which I thank the Lord!), I would bite down on my impatience and also wonder – was I being a “good enough mother”?
It took me a long while to realize that this state of mind was a manifestation of my ego: A “my child” syndrome. I learned to see him as a complete person even if he was still in the single digits. When faced with yet another situation where his will came up against mine, I started asking myself: What if he were my student and not my son? How would I handle the situation then?
I reminded myself that he is one of my biggest teachers, and that part of the mandate he has, is to be seemingly contrary to my expectations! For that is how he has given me insights into a “nishkaam karma”, the principle of detached involvement; learning to keep aside expectations of particular outcomes and focusing instead on the best that one can do.
Long ago, I read the words of Kahlil Gibran;
“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.”
Most parents would nod their heads sagely on reading these lines. Yet most of us are also guilty of falling into the trap that he cautions us against. We unwittingly treat children as our possessions and therefore foist a more rigid set of expectations on them. Mothers, particularly Indian ones, are often guilty of allowing emotions to colour almost all decisions, to the point where the child is emotionally blackmailed into toeing the line with the phrase: “After all the sacrifices I’ve made for you…”
Maybe I, and other mothers like me should remind ourselves from that the Universe has entrusted us with the sacred responsibility of helping our children discover their own potential, and work towards fulfilling it in their own unique manner. We can’t walk the path for them, or stop the pain of the falls along the way. We ought to not hand out our own “How to” guides for their journey, unless they clearly need it or ask for it. We are there to cheer their progress, to guide, and to boost their courage in the rare moments of self-doubt.
Does that mean that wise parenting is a cold, bloodless affair? Most certainly not. After all these years, I am discovering that it as a sublime blend of intense commitment, coupled with love and affection; and an equally dispassionate calm. The ability to see one’s child as much more than one’s child seems to be the trick to baggage-free parenting. I hope and pray that over the years this becomes one of my best gifts to my son, the space to be who he truly is!