10 moms who make the world a better place

By Oxfam

This Mother's Day, meet 10 women from around the world who are creating a future without poverty.

1. Agnes Nyantie

Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

A 42-year-old mother of five from Liberia, Nyantie is one of a 100-strong team of community health volunteers who are the first line of defense in the battle against Ebola. With support from Oxfam, she goes door-to-door in the poorest neighborhoods of Liberia’s capital to educate people about preventing the deadly virus—visiting 20 homes a day, six days a week, during the peak of the Ebola outbreak last fall. Since many people in these areas don’t have access to the internet or can’t read, information about prevention can literally save lives.

2. Laura Chavez

Chavez with three of her daughters (from left to right): Miriam Elena, Maria Alejandra, and Sara Estephanie. Photo: Ilene Perlman/Oxfam America

Chavez, the mother of four daughters, found the courage to say “no more” to the abuse she suffered during her marriage. With training she received from an Oxfam partner organization in Guatemala, Chavez is now working hard to help other women understand their rights and break free of the cycle of violence. “The Bible said, with all respect, you have to be with your husband in good times and bad. But I was not going to allow my husband to kill me,” she says. Her message of empowerment is one that her daughters have taken to heart and have shared with their classmates in school. “She has struggled a lot for us,” says Maria of her mother. “We love her very much and we appreciate all she does for us.”

3. Dorothy Ngoma

Photo: Maartje Geels / Oxfam Novib

Pregnancy has been a cause for worry in Malawi for a long time. A woman there has one-in-36 chance of dying in her lifetime during birth or in the late stages of pregnancy, which are 58 times greater odds than for a woman in the US. Dorothy Ngoma is committed to changing this from the ground up. As head of the Malawi’s Presidential Initiative for Maternal Health and Safe Motherhood and mother of two, Ngoma has enlisted more than 12,000 chiefs in the country to change harmful traditions and improve the healthcare system.

4. Harriet Nakabaale

A single mother determined to ensure her children get a good education, Uganda's Harriet Nakabaale turned her small backyard in Kampala into a thriving garden whose vegetables and fruits she sells to help support her family. Camp Green, as Nakabaale has dubbed her enterprise, serves as a learning center on urban agriculture, drawing visitors from across the city. Her dream is to one day buy a 10-acre plot and establish a large demonstration farm. "In Africa, we get hungry because we don't know what to do with the soil we have, the land we have," says Nakabaale. "It's very important to people in urban areas to use the small space they have. If they use it profitably, it would help you cut the cost of living in town. If you don't cut costs, you'll always buy and be poor forever."

5. Aarti Sequeira

Aarti Sequeira speaks at an Oxfam event in Boston. Photo: Patricia Alvarado-Núñez/Oxfam America

Sequeira is a multi-hyphenate kind of person: chef, mom, author, blogger, and Food Network host, among other accomplishments. Born in India and raised in Dubai, she’s an outspoken supporter of anti-poverty groups and believes that food has the power to bring people together across cultures. In March, Sequeira hosted an Oxfam America Hunger Banquet in Boston to educate people about the inequalities of hunger. “I love that for just one night you’re walking in someone else’s shoes,” Sequeira said in an interview with the Boston Globe about this interactive event. “Even if it’s just for a couple of hours, it will stay in your heart hopefully for the rest of your life and will inform your decisions from what you cook every week to what you do with your money.”

6. Vanessa Margallo

Vanessa Margallo with two of her children. Photo: Simon Roberts/Oxfam

Margallo, 34, survived the devastating typhoon that struck the Philippines in November 2013, but at a cost: The mother of three young children lost some of her relatives to the storm, and her family’s house was destroyed. These hardships didn’t stop her from working to make her community safer. In the weeks after the typhoon, Margallo joined an Oxfam-trained committee that monitored the local water supply. “We make sure the water is clean… so that we can prevent illnesses,” she said. “The children are my concern, to make sure they get safe water.”

7. Emiliana Aligaesha

Photo: Brett Eloff/Oxfam America

Emiliana Aligaesha, with her fellow community members, formed a successful private company that sells coffee and beans in Karagwe, Tanzania. One of their customers is the World Food Programme, which purchases their food locally for faster and cheaper famine relief. She was named a Female Food Hero runner-up last year, but most important to her is that her eight children have all been put through college as a result of her hard work.

8. Jessica Lettween

Jessica Lettween, left, at an Oxfam event with her daughter. Photo courtesy of Jessica Lettween

“Becoming a mother has given me a new perspective, a more visceral drive, in my role as both an Oxfam volunteer and a global citizen,” says Lettween. The former director of a fair trade organization in Minnesota, Lettween volunteers with the Oxfam Action Corps to help ensure that US policies benefit people living in poverty. She also founded the Washington, DC, chapter of Eat for Equity, a nonprofit organization that organizes community dinners to raise money for various causes. Lettween often brings her daughter to rallies, events, and even meetings with Congress: “Even though [she] is very young, there are always opportunities to instill that sense of duty to the greater good.”

9. Renu Bala

Renu Bala uses a tablet to contact buyers and keep track of market information for her dairy farmers' group. Abir Abdullah/Oxfam

The leader of a group of women dairy farmers in rural Bangladesh and the mother of a teenage son, Bala set up a milk collection center in her village, helping farmers sell their milk collectively for a higher price than they could earn as individuals. She now manages the collection center, and she’s a leader in other ways, too. After taking part in a leadership workshop led by Oxfam’s local partner organization, Bala is helping other women learn about their rights and protect themselves from domestic violence and child marriage. 

10. Olimcia Morolus

Olimcia Morolus outside of her house in Liancourt, Haiti. Photo: Shiloh Strong/Oxfam America

Morolus is a member of a women’s organization in Haiti’s Artibonite Valley that helps farmers learn about a more efficient method of growing rice—one that yields larger harvests using fewer resources. The mom of three was also inspired by the training she received from Oxfam about women’s equal rights. Morolus told Oxfam’s Coco McCabe that she used to be afraid to work with men, afraid of the sexual harassment she would encounter, and of the discrimination so many women endure—but that’s changed. “I’m not scared any more. I’m strong,” said Morolus. “We know our rights. I’m not afraid to go to work and be surrounded by 50 men. I’m tall because of the gender training.”


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