This blog post was updated on May 3, 2023.
No matter where you go, mothers are doing extraordinary things every single day. Here are five stories from around the world that prove just that.
Natalia in Romania: A mother from Ukraine who is persevering amid tragedy
When the war in Ukraine began in February 2022 , Natalia didn’t plan to leave her home. Her entire life was in Ukraine, and so was her 9-year-old daughter’s. But when the situation worsened and she resorted to assembling a makeshift shelter in the hallway of her apartment to keep away from windows, she realized she had little choice but to flee.
“It started to be scarier,” Natalia says. “The shelter that we created in our apartment could not help with the air attacks.”
She left on a train to Romania with her mother, daughter and their dog. In total, it took 23 hours for them to reach the border, all the while being packed on a train with hundreds of other families seeking refuge.
Despite the devastation in Ukraine, Natalia expressed her hope to return home as soon as the war ends.
“My daughter wants to go back to her school, to see her friends and to sleep in her bed,” she says.
For now, Natalia’s biggest concern is making sure her family has a safe place to rest. When Plan spoke with her at the border checkpoint, she was struggling to find a place to stay. They had their dog in tow, and many shelters don’t allow pets.
“The dog is 5 months old,” Natalia explains. “He is like my second baby; I can’t go anywhere without him. The dog was a gift for my daughter for New Year’s.”
During our interview with Natalia, a volunteer appeared to let the family know they had found accommodations for them for the night. Through the chaos and uncertainty of this situation, Natalia is doing whatever it takes to keep her family safe.
Learn more about how you can support mothers like Natalia.
Phuc in Vietnam: A mother who turned a crisis into an opportunity
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and Phuc could no longer cross the border to Laos to farm rice and bananas, she was left without an income. And that meant her family was in trouble. So, she did what any mother would do: She took matters into her own two hands. By getting on two wheels.
“My mother is a shipper!” Phuc’s daughter Yen Nhi says proudly. “My father says that shippers help deliver food to those who need it.”
Shippers are what motorbike delivery drivers are called in Vietnam. During the pandemic, their deliveries became more important than ever.
Phuc turned a crisis into an entrepreneurial opportunity. Noticing that local farmers couldn’t sell their crops during lockdown, Phuc launched a delivery service for all the nearby villages. She posts photos of the products on Facebook, takes the orders online and then delivers the items to the customer’s doorstep.
Phuc was prepared to be a business owner because she participated in Plan International’s financial training courses. And because she and her husband had started a savings account at that time, she was able to use her own money as capital to launch her business.
“During this difficult time, we have realized how important these savings can be for our family,” Phuc says.
Thanks to Phuc’s idea, everybody wins: Local farmers are still in business, families can keep food on the table and Phuc earns a steady income (and brings home cake, which is her daughter’s favorite part of all this).
Alia in Jordan: A mother who is fighting for a more equal world for her children
Alia survived a nightmare: being forced to flee your home with just the clothes on your back.
A former teacher, Alia escaped Syria and made the treacherous journey to the Jordanian border with her six children in tow. Homeless, and terrified, they lived in an abandoned tent for three months until it caught on fire.
Now living in the Azraq refugee camp in Jordan, Alia is rebuilding her life. But she’s not only looking out for her own children — she’s fighting for all girls and women.
Alia joined the Plan team in the refugee camp and leads volunteers. She knows all too well the challenges and inequalities that girls and women face during emergencies. She wants to make sure girls understand their rights and don’t have to endure what she went through.
“I feel that I am making a difference,” Alia says. “Girls are now empowered and feel entitled to every bit of their rights. You can feel the confidence and energy that these girls have. It is inspiring.”
No doubt that the girls find Alia inspiring, too.
Mammy Simity in Sierra Leone: A mother who rebelled against tradition with her daughter
Mammy Simity is a “sowei” — a practitioner of female genital mutilation.
Well, she was a practitioner. She recently abandoned her practice thanks to her teenage daughter, Marie, who refused to be cut and became an outspoken advocate against FGM.
“I was cut myself when I was a child,” Mammy Simity explains. “Then I became a sowei after I had my first two children. To me, it felt like an honor, because I had been chosen by other women.”
Cutting girls is how Mammy Simity supported her family and sent her children to school. But when her daughter spoke up after learning about the tradition’s harmful (sometimes deadly) effects through a Plan program, Mammy Simity listened. And changed her mind.
“I feel really proud of my daughter,” she says. “I’m really happy with what she is doing. I think if more girls do what she is doing then it will be possible to eradicate the practice of FGM. I think that’s a good thing.”
Rejecting cultural traditions like this isn’t easy. But strong mothers like Mammy Simity are doing it every day.
[Read: Embracing tradition, rejecting mutilation: A story in photos]
Adriana in Colombia: A mother who is rapping against machismo
Adriana is not your average Colombian mamá.
She fights machismo and gender stereotypes with her two daughters. And the channel for their activism is not one you might expect.
It’s rap music.
Adriana, Estefania and Sara are La Siembra, a rap group. They perform and hold workshops, encouraging girls and women to believe in their own strength and reject gender-based violence.
“Being women of different generations and doing rap has not been easy,” Estefania says. “The genre is still led by men and many of us are not taken seriously. However, those who see us singing love and support us.”
Adriana knows how toxic the machismo culture can be — in her life she’s had to face it daily, even struggling with it right in her own home. But now through La Siembra, she’s teaching the next generation of women that their voices matter.