Celebrating our mothers – just for one day

Today, families all over South Africa are celebrating Mother’s Day. One day a year for mommies to be cossetted and spoiled by loved ones. One special day when mothers can reflect on the joys and sorrows, the sacrifices and rewards, the pains and the pleasures of raising babies, toddlers, teenagers, grown-up children, grandchildren and of course to celebrate our own mothers.

It took a few false starts to get even this single day going in the West.  Thousands of years BC, the Greeks and Romans celebrated two fictional maternal Goddesses named Cybele and Rhea but stopped short of actually cherishing the living ones. In the early 1600’s Britain introduced Mothering Sunday on the 4th Sunday of Lent to celebrate the Virgin Mary. At the time it was customary for children of all classes to bring small gifts or flowers to church to pay tribute to their own mothers. But by the 19th century this tradition had fallen away.


In 1872 after the American Civil War, an activist and poet called Julia Howe tried to introduce an annual Mother’s Day dedicated to world peace. But her venture was short lived. However, forty-two years later, another American lady called Anna Jarvis succeeded where all before her had failed. Surprisingly, Anna Jarvis was never a wife or mother herself but she wanted to honour her own mother’s wish to have a day set aside every year to celebrate motherhood. Her efforts paid off and in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson legislated that Mother’s Day be held annually on the second Sunday of May in America. It soon spread to other parts of the world.

A few mom stats:

  • Moms change approximately 4 300 nappies by their baby’s second birthday, taking on average two minutes and five seconds to do each nappy. This makes a total of just under 9 000 hours devoted to nappy changing time.
  • A pre-schooler requires their mom’s attention approximately once every four minutes
  • Moms do about 88 percent of the family’s laundry and shopping
  • More telephone calls are made on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year

Mother’s Day is a wonderful invention. It is a day to spoil moms rotten. And not necessarily with expensive gifts – most mothers would be happy with just a day of no work: no cooking, no cleaning, no food shopping – no chores at all for one whole day.

But for thousands of mom’s living in South Africa celebration on this day is just a fantasy.  South Africa has one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world, the end of the violence is nowhere in sight and every day of every year women in South Africa live in fear for their safety and their lives.  Mother’s Day for them is no exception.

We have laws to punish offenders but flaws in the criminal justice system and the difficulties inherent in prosecuting rape cases mean that most offenders are not held accountable.

In addition, there is no genuine political will from leaders to institute measures to end the high levels of abuse and rape.  Tribal traditions, religious customs and social norms that maintain patriarchal attitudes are left unchallenged. Without a huge shift in prevailing attitudes across all of South African society, we will never solve abuse of women. Men will continue to believe that they own their women and society will forever be looking to help women pick up the pieces after the fact.

Patriarchal attitudes have to change so that mothers don’t have to spend every day finding ways to protect themselves and their children from harm.

Rape Crisis services are available 24/7 via our helpline on (021) 447-9762 for advice on how to report rape or counselling for recovery.

Lizzy Cowan





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About rapecrisisblog

We have a vision of a South Africa in which rape survivors suffer no secondary trauma, and are supported throughout their interaction with the Criminal Justice System (CJS). Our mission is to promote an end to violence against women, specifically rape, and to assist women to achieve their right to live free from violence. Rape Crisis Cape Town seeks to achieve its mission through counselling and training of women, thereby reducing the trauma experienced by rape survivors, and encouraging reporting of rape and the conviction of rapists.

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