10 moms who make the world a better place

By Oxfam
Neighborhood kids flock to Harriet Nakabaale’s yard where vegetables and fruits grow in abundance. Photo: Ami Vitale/Oxfam America

Meet 10 women from around the world who are creating a future without poverty.

In honor of Mother’s Day this Sunday, check out these stories of 10 moms from all over the world who are working with Oxfam to right the wrongs of poverty and injustice. Whether they’re transforming their countries, their communities, or their families, these powerful women are not only raising a new generation—they’re changing the future.

1. Josephine Alad-Ad

Josephine Alad-Ad and her daughter Jessamae, 15, during a trip to sell vegetables at the regional farmers' market in Mindanao, Philippines. Photo: Tessa Bunney/Oxfam

Lifelong gardener Josephine Alad-Ad of Sitio Matinao, Philippines, supports her children’s education by selling produce at the local farmers’ market. After her crops were affected by both droughts and a flash flood, the mom of four took action in the face of increasingly extreme weather, participating in an Oxfam training to help farmers learn new farming practices, new technologies, and crop diversification. “It feels good to be doing something to try and improve life here and adapt to the changes we are experiencing,” said Alad-Ad.

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. Virginia Ñuñonca

Caption: Virginia Ñuñonca and her youngest daughter Elian, 13, in their irrigated pastureland. Photo: Percy Ramírez/Oxfam America

A farmer from a rural Peruvian town located at 13,000 feet above sea level, Virginia Ñuñonca took part in an Oxfam-funded project designed to help Andean communities adapt to climate change. She expanded her irrigation system, tripled her pastureland, and purchased dairy cows; their milk and cheese provides her with a steady income for the first time. Ñuñonca, 54, is also an advocate for women’s equality, passing these teachings to others in her community as well as her six children. “[I tell them] that it has to be the same work … the same rights, in the house, in the country, as professionals, for both men and women,” she said. “There shouldn’t be machismo. We should all be respected as equals in rights.”

6. Elizabeth Missokia

Fifty percent of students in Tanzania do not pass primary school and only 10 percent graduate from secondary school, which is partly due to a public school system that is short tens of thousands of teachers. Elizabeth Missokia tells lawmakers that Tanzania’s children deserve better. As the executive director of HakiElimu, a Tanzanian non-profit that facilitates community dialogue to transform local schools and influence policy making, this mother of two girls leads 40,000 members who are actively engaged in improving education in Tanzania.

7. Svay Mon

A single mom and grandmother from rural Camboda, Svay Mon used savings and loans from an Oxfam-funded community savings group to go from a subsistence level rice farmer to a small-scale commercial vegetable farmer. She has invested in livestock and improved her house, installed a latrine, acquired a motorbike, and paid for education expenses for her grandson. She is expanding her business thanks to a water pond she dug so she would have a dependable source of water for her garden, and she intends to invest in expanding the pond so she can enlarge her field and grow even more.

8. Emiliana Aligaesha

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.

9. Delia Salminang

Peace negotiator Delia Salminang helped bring an end to skirmishes with the "Lost Command" of the New Peoples Army, a Maoist rebel group in Mindanao, Philippines, when she mediated between the rebels and local government officials in 2011. A mother of six, Salminang is now the Deputy Mayor of her town, representing the B’laan and other indigenous peoples.

10. Bertukan Girma

Bertukan Girma now has a small herd of cows that provide milk for her three children. Photo: Eva-Lotta Jansson/Oxfam America

Mom of three Bertukan Girma and her husband, Tufa Midhakso, began their business a couple of years ago in their backyard in Kentery, Ethiopia, with the help of a bicycle wheel pump for irrigation and agricultural training provided by Oxfam and its local partner organization.  Nurturing dreams of becoming farmers themselves, they sold onion seedlings grown in their backyard to local farmers. Their first sales allowed the couple to build themselves a new house and buy a cow to ensure their children would have milk. Two years later, they now have four cows, a small herd of sheep, and rented land—including a half-acre that is irrigated—for harvests of corn and wheat. 

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