Mothers Strength by Gift Mbewe, Zambia

It started just around my thigh area, my hamstrings were literally killing me. It felt as though I had been trying to flex my hamstrings for hours. I thought the pain would go away, but then it gradually started shifting towards my knees, into my calves and right down to my little toe.

The pain was almost unbearable, but as I glanced sideways, I realized my companion was unwavering. I had to go on, without a grudge in my words. Even as I type this, I can still feel the pain oozing through my veins. I wished I could take it away, get a massage or even soak in a hot tub for hours, but there was not a drop of water to spare. And so I thought, “Well, I have an undone assignment, I might as well pour out my pain in these words.”

What was going on? Some of you may still be wondering. Well, I was in a lot of pain. What in the world afflicted me this way? I had to walk what seemed to be several hundred kilometers that afternoon. We had been walking for hours and hours, from office to office, crossing busy and crowded streets, going over bridges and stopping cars, and almost yelling for the cars to get out of the way. We did all this so we could get to the next office and deliver a job application letter. As we entered the offices, some people would not give us the attention we felt we deserved. Others would simply chase us away because they had no vacancies and didn’t want to be bothered.

Since I am always looking for a lesson in life, this actually taught me something: not everyone will treat you the way you want and hope to be treated, but that shouldn’t deter you from your goal, others will discourage you, even shut down your ideas, but hold on and try again, you may surprise yourself one day when you make it.

l forgot to mention, I was doing this with my mother who is nearly three times my age. She was obviously tired and had actually come from a painful clinical operation that morning. No, that did not stop her. With every third step, I kept thinking to myself, ”She could be resting. Isn’t she tired? Maybe we could forget about this and do it another day? Haven’t I been jobless for about a year, why the hurry today?” I don’t know if she had any similar thoughts, but all I know is that she kept on moving forward. At times we were heading in an unfamiliar direction, hoping that by a wonderful miracle we were going in the right direction and would find the headquarters of the particular Institution where I would drop off an application.

Thinking of the sweat on her face and her unwell state, and seeing her ignore all this and push on, I was reminded of a conversation we had the previous day. During this conversation, she narrated certain things about my upbringing that she had never told me.  She had made so many sacrifices for my siblings and me, She had to push beyond societal norms, cultural expectations, and even financial limitations, to make sure that we had food in our stomachs, a good education and bright futures. I recognized the strength of a mother who can comprehend life’s hurdles. I began to remember certain instances when things weren’t okay at home, and she would make sure we were taken care of and wouldn’t go hungry even if she had to. She is  caring, thoughtful, and always wants to do what is right., She teaches and trains for greater empowerment in each opportunity she is given. Mother indeed, a mother to all.

Maybe she shouldn’t have told me all that since parents aren’t supposed to share their struggles with their children… Well, at least it is a strange thing where I come from. But I am so grateful she did since it made me appreciate her so much more. She didn’t just give me life, but she chose to mother me! I thought of this event in the same light; I didn’t ask her to take me around in search of a job. She asked me to meet her in town when she was released from the hospital to go around and hand out my job applications. She chose to do this, with no one pointing a gun to her head.

Wow! I don’t know if I will ever be half the woman she is, but each day I learn from this Iron Lady. I pray that I keep what I learn, share it with those around me and pass it down to my children. My mother is changing the world. She is showing others the meaning of hard work, unconditional love, perseverance, vision, responsibility, accountability, integrity… Oh, let me stop here. if I had to break down each area I think my mother is moulding in me and how I hope to emulate, I could fill volumes of books. She is my strong hero.




This is just one example of the important work produced by YaLa’s citizen journalists, a program funded by the European Union’s Peacebuilding Initiative in order to enable young leaders from across the Middle East and North Africa to document and share their experiences of the region. 

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