The Meaning of Mother's Day Revisited

Originally, Mother's Day began as a call to unite women around the world to address the toughest challenges faced by society.
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This week, millions of Americans will run to the card shop, order flowers, and pick up a present for their mom. And, while most of us remember that this Sunday is Mother's Day, many of us are not familiar with the origin of this holiday.

We know Mother's Day as a time for celebrating mothers - showing our appreciation for their love and support. But originally, Mother's Day began as a call to unite women around the world to address the toughest challenges faced by society.

In 1870, Julia Ward Howe issued the original Mother's Day Proclamation. After witnessing the atrocities of war and the hardships of tens of thousands of widows and orphans, she issued a rallying cry for women to use their power and humanity to promote the "alliance of the different nationalities" and the "amicable settlement of international questions."

Time has passed but the challenges we face today are strikingly similar and Howe's words particularly timely. Wars rage on. Food prices are skyrocketing and nations are going hungry. Global poverty prevents tens of millions of people from accessing clean water, healthcare, and basic education. The AIDS pandemic continues to claim lives. More than half a million maternal deaths occur each year, many of them in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, 4,400 people die on the continent every day from AIDS, resulting in an estimated 11.4 million orphaned children.

As a mother and advocate, I continue to work with organizations such as (RED) and CARE who are creatively addressing these crises. I have witnessed the impact that these organizations, through the women who are recipients of their funding and training, are having on their families, communities, and countries.

We as women can all use our strength, our voice, our compassion, our minds and our solidarity to help our counterparts in the developing world tackle those issues that are destroying families' lives.

We cannot solve AIDS or poverty overnight. But we can equip women with the medicine, knowledge, and resources to help them get and stay healthy so that they can provide support and solutions for their communities to help prevent the spread of HIV and to expand economic opportunity.

It may sound daunting but impacting a family's life a half a world away is easier than you think.

For example, it costs just 40 cents a day to purchase the two pills that HIV+ individuals need to stay alive or 20 cents for medicine to help prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS from a mother to her child during birth. Even so, with so many people living on less than a dollar a day, most people cannot afford this.

Now compare that to the nearly $16 billion Americans are expected to spend this Mother's Day.

On this holiday, in the spirit of Howe, let us support the empowerment of women everywhere. With over $670 million to be spent on Mother's Day greeting cards alone, you can choose (RED) or another for-benefit brand, whose proceeds from sales go to fighting the AIDS epidemic or supporting other initiatives that help women and children around the world. Your action will compliment the work of numerous charities, NGOs and government programs working to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Let us return to a Mother's Day of activism. Through our actions, including our purchases, we can send a message of solidarity to women everywhere this holiday and be a powerful force of change.