No one familiar with the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) can question the high station he ascribed to mothers. In repeated verses and hadiths he directs humanity to honor, care for and revere our mothers. Paradise, he said, can be found at your mother’s feet.
What does that mean for us at Zakat Foundation of America (ZF)?
The importance of mothers to long-term development is undeniable. Mothers are the first educators of children; knowledgeable mothers have been shown to be the key to spreading benefits of education throughout communities and nations. Research has shown that educated women are more likely to participate in their community life, more likely to send their children to school, tend to have healthier babies and children, experience less violence and invest their earnings into their families.
ZF knows that educating, supporting and uplifting just one mother, or just one girl by the time she becomes a mother, changes her life and the lives of numerous generations to come. So in Ghana ZF organized and funded through microcredit lending the formation of a women’s cassava cooperative that enables its members to provide for their families, increase the food security of their community, support local farmers by ensuring a market for their produce and expand into other areas, such as operating a cassava mill.
In Kenya ZF partners with Heshima Kenya to combine vocational training and education for young women and older girls in the Girls Empowerment Program. Heshima Kenya primarily serves young refugee women and girls aged 13 to 23, offering academic and life skills instruction alongside tailoring courses that offer a path to self-sufficiency. Heshima Kenya supports the needs of its students by providing childcare as well as psychological counseling for those who have been traumatized by war or human trafficking.
In Bangladesh ZF runs a clinic for women and children and offers a six-month sewing class to mothers living in the slums of Dhaka. On graduation the women receive their own sewing machine. The knowledge they gain from the class may be valuable, but with their own equipment they can work from home and be near their children instead of in a sweatshop.
One essential component to supporting mothers is educating their children. All mothers want to see their children succeed, and most understand that education is the first step. ZF-sponsored schools in Pakistan, Turkey, Ghana and Bangladesh give children who would otherwise be unable to afford school a solid foundation on which to grow, develop, and make their mothers proud.
And ZF has not forgotten that some children do not have a mother in their lives to teach, protect, care for and worry over them. ZF orphan sponsorship steps in to give the loving, long-term support that these vulnerable children need, including gifts during Eid.
Even projects such as construction of water wells play a special role in the lives of mothers. In many parts of the world where water is scarce, girls must carry water for many hours every day in order to ensure the needs of their families are met. Once a water well is built in their village, these girls are free to attend school and prepare for their adult lives as mothers and participants in the world around them.
Although many girls and women have access to education in the U.S., stresses from poverty, food insecurity, poor health or social isolation can make motherhood a hard and lonely path in life. So in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood the ZF Community Center – Chicago (ZFCCC) offers a range of programs including mentoring, food distribution, health fairs that address both physical and mental health. The annual Spring Refresh, a Mother’s Day event where mothers and daughters focus on their health and spirituality, reinforces the undeniable importance of their role in families, communities and the whole world.
At ZF we see that mothers are so central to the well-being of the world that starting with them, wherever their feet may stand, really can change this world into a paradise.