By: Beth Ann Caspersen, Quality Control Manager
Being a mother is hard work and today we honor and celebrate women around the world with inspired messages and gratitude for all that it is to be a mother. Words cannot express how thankful I am to be a mom and for the love and guidance my mother gave to me.
Much like many of the women I meet in my work, my mom was a smart, strong and determined woman with amazing patience. She was a single mom, with three children and while money was always tight, we were surrounded by love and good humor. She passed away with breast cancer in 1998, but her life lessons shaped me into who I am today and who I continue to strive to be. In my work at Equal Exchange, I am continually inspired by the mothers that surround me- my amazing co-owners and the hundreds of women coffee farmers I have met over the years. Being a mother is hard work no matter where you are from- but the relationship and bond that is formed between a mother and her children is incomparable. Words may articulate this connection; however unspoken words hold a place as well.
While there is reason to celebrate each and every mother, the unacceptable fact remains that violence against women—many of them mothers—continues around the world. This has become ever more apparent over the past several months in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Equal Exchange partners with Panzi Hospital and Foundation, supporting their holistic approach to treating victims of sexual violence.
These unacceptable attacks cannot go unnoticed – and that is why we are even more impressed with the resiliency of Congolese women who are determined to speak up against the atrocities they’re facing. Concerned survivors and family members affected by violence had their request for a peaceful protest rejected by the local government in Bukavu (where Panzi operates). Undeterred, they accepted an invitation to hold their protest on hospital grounds—resulting in over 800 women who joined together to demand peace, respect, and justice.
Pictured above Congolese women stand in protest after the the April 15th rapes of several woman by local militia.
Photo Credit Panzi Foundation
This Mother’s Day, we want to celebrate their courage in the face of unspeakable tragedy, and give their voice a stage as they strive to make the world a more peaceful and safe place for their children—especially their daughters
My mother’s words and encouragement have helped me to become who I am today. While it is important to remind ourselves of the good in the world, her memory serves as a reminder that we cannot idly stand by and watch as fellow women suffer. Join us in a united protest against violence. On this Mother’s Day, I choose to use my voice for those that are not able to speak for themselves and to amplify the voices of those that I am listening to. You can too.
Donate here to support the vital work of the Panzi Hospital.
You can also support the work of the Panzi Hospital by purchasing our Congo Coffee. Equal Exchange donates $2 to the Panzi Foundation for every bag of coffee retail customers buy (or $1 from bags purchased wholesale). Learn more about the Congo Coffee Project here.
Read the memorandum of the sexual violence survivors in DRC and incredible work of Mouvement des Survivant.e.s and Global Survivor Network here.
A congolese woman holds a sign “We say loud and clear: no more rapes in South Kivu, Congo, Africa or the world!”
Photo Credit Panzi Foundation