How we can think beyond just our own moms on Mother's Day

On Mother's Day, we tend to focus on the moms we know. But Mother's Day is also an occasion to honor the daily heroism of moms around the world. It's easy to assume the important decisions about the world's future are made in boardrooms or the halls of government. But the truth is that millions of women are changing the world in quiet ways by working tirelessly to improve life for themselves and their families.

This Mother's Day, let's support all moms by helping to ensure these things:

1. Women and girls have decision-making authority.

Chandrika Devi cradles her 15-day-old child in her home in Samda village, Saharsa district, Bihar, India. Photo by Prashant Panjiar/Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


Women must have an equal voice in determining the future, whether that's for themselves, their families, or their country. That means something as basic as a girl being able to decide to wait until she's an adult to get married. Every year, 15 million girls are married before their 18th birthday. Our daughters and sisters deserve better.

2. Every girl has access to an education.

A new-mother group meets in the Korogocho community. Photo by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation photographer.

One of the great achievements of the past generation is that the number of girls and boys enrolled in primary schools is finally equal. Now we have to make sure that all girls are able to continue their education for as long as they want in order to achieve their goals.

3. Women are free to decide if and when to get pregnant.

A community health worker speaks about contraceptive use during a home visit in Korogocho. Photo by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation photographer.

I will never forget a conversation I had with Maryanne, a mother who lives in a slum outside Nairobi, Kenya. She uses contraceptives, she said, because "I want to bring every good thing to one child before I have another." That desire — to bring every good thing to our children — is universal. All mothers should have the ability to fulfill it.

4. No woman has to choose between her career and her family.

At the Osu Maternity Home in Accra, Ghana, Rebecca Martey breastfeeds her newborn son, Gerald. Photo by Olivier Asselin/Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The income mothers earn is often critical to their families' well-being. In recognition of this fact, all but nine countries in the world provide paid leave for new moms. The United States is one of the nine that doesn't. We can do better.

5. Women have access to financial services.

A woman who had just given birth to premature twins at Turay Yaradua maternal and children's hospital in Katsina, Nigeria, looks at the camera. Photo by Pep Bonet/Noor/Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

In developing nations, women are 20% less likely than men to have a formal bank account, but they invest 90% of their earnings in their family's future. When mothers have power over their finances, everybody wins.

This Mother's Day, I challenge you to help make the world better for moms everywhere.

Melinda French Gates, co-chair and trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, visits Mbagathi Hospital. Photo by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation photographer.

There are hundreds of amazing advocacy organizations around the world. You can find the one that fits with your personal passions, but here's a short list of groups I like to get you started: Population Services International, Tostan, Girls Not Brides, and Heifer International. Happy Mother's Day!

Share these great thoughts to celebrate and support moms the world over this Mother's Day!

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