White Ribbon Alliance


Saying HELLO MUM at London’s WOW Festival

March 31, 2014
By Tom Venner Woodcock, White Ribbon Alliance

For International Women’s Day in the UK this year, we had a stall at WOW, the Women of the World Festival at London’s South Bank Centre. The crowds surged through the doors to listen to Malala Yousafzai on gender equality and to other inspiring speakers such as Maxine Peake.

The place was buzzing all weekend and at our stall, Brigid McConville’s book ‘On Becoming a Mother; Wisdom from Around the World’, was received with enthusiasm by grandmothers, mothers and mothers-to-be, while we took many ‘Hello Mum’ photos for visitors to send to their own mothers.

One visitor, Nina, told us: “this is a great book! It’s wonderful for women around the world to share their wisdom and traditions.”

Brigid writes how the idea came from a less happy place, “the life threatening neglect of pregnant women and mothers around the world”, and she thanks the White Ribbon Alliance members who contributed many far more positive stories from their own cultures on how pregnancy and birth should be - and is for many. “We draw our energy to change things for all mothers from that knowledge of how it ought to be, and one day will be.”

Just some of the inspiring women I met include Aminata, Hattie, Frances and Sally.

Aminata was18 when rebels invaded Freetown. She was kidnapped and held hostage for several months until she fled to neighbouring Guinea where she joined hundreds of thousands of other refugees in a UNHCR camp. She was the first refugee from Sierra Leone to arrive in Australia in 2000. She told me about her work to improve the health and wellbeing of women and children in Sierra Leone.

Hattie is a midwife; she sent a photo to her mum and said what she really wanted to do was to go to somewhere in Africa or Asia where her help would be really needed.

Frances worked as a midwife in Mozambique in the 1990s. She told me about a bush clinic where a mother turned up with two tiny bundles in her arms, twins each only 3lbs at three weeks old. Every time Frances would visit this clinic she took beans and oil for the mother to keep her lactating. The babies survived until she moved away and Frances heard that both babies had died at eight months.

And Sally, who told me, ‘I grew up eating curry before it was cool to do so. My mum trained as a nurse and midwife in London’s East end, then went out with an aid agency to help train rural midwives in Bangladesh. She’s my biggest inspiration.’