The International Labour Organization (ILO) launched the World Day Against Child Labour in 2002 to focus attention on the global extent of child labor and the action and efforts needed to eliminate it. Each year on 12 June, the World Day brings together governments, employers and workers organizations, civil society, as well as millions of people from around the world to highlight the plight of child laborers and what can be done to help them. Today, on World Moms Network, we commemorate this day by writing a tribute to Mathioli R. Saraswathy, a philantrophist who dedicated her life for the betterment of the lives of children.
Mathioli R. Saraswathy, the founder of Nandalala Seva Samithi
Mathioli R. Saraswathy, the founder of Nandalala Seva Samithi, who passed away on May 9, 2018, was fondly called as ‘Akka’ by her loved ones all over the world. She was a legend who not only looked beyond the ambiguity and challenges of every day but also foresaw the empowering picture of tomorrow for them.
‘Akka’ is an endearing word that defines a close relationship. In the Tamil language, it refers to one’s elder sister, who is supposed to be a step above the rest. True to this word, she who was held in high esteem, was actually an exception to this rule as she mingled freely them.
Akka established Nandalala Mission, a non-profit organization, in the early 90s in Chennai to nurture the fullest potential of children through educational, cultural, physical and service-oriented activities.
Age was no barrier for this 78-year-old enigmatic personality who was always befriending little ones all over the world. She believed that every child is bestowed with creativity and encouraged their latent talents. She had no linguistic barriers and made them understand her love for them and they too reciprocated their abiding love for their dear ‘Akka’.
She loved being with them, conversing with them, playing with them and elaborating about this beautiful world around them. She could talk with ease about flowers, trees, birds, animal, sea, and stars. In her eyes, children reflected the finest blend of grace, charm, and beauty of the world. Just like the child in ‘Akka’ was alive until her last moments, she will continue to live in the hearts of the little ones all around the world.
Though this charismatic personality disappeared from their lives forever, the little ones still look forward to her visit at the Nandalala Temple, part of the Mission, located in Chennai, the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu in India.
The little ones are not alone. Their mothers, older sisters, and even grandmothers miss the frail figure who was more than a mother to every one of them. “She was our ‘Amma’ (meaning mother in Tamil) and will always be, they say. On the day her soul left her body, one could see that it was a big blow to the women who were involved in various activities of the Samithi with their ‘Amma’. “We do not know to live without her guidance. She was always there whenever we faced any problem, official or personal. Whom do we turn to now,” they wailed.
Mathioli R. Saraswathy
Mercifully, this image is sustained from anecdotes drawn from their lives. Anecdotes that prove that Mathioli Saraswathy was their mother in all ways throughout their lives.
For Vidya, who was plagued with a number of personal problems Akka was a good mother who internalized her. For more than a decade now, she has always helped her to tide over innumerable problems. She has counseled her like a mother and helped her to unleash her potential and become independent.
Says Vidya: Akka was of the view that external parenting always made a child dependent on its mother. But if you internalize and facilitate the child to be aware of its potential, the child will achieve greater heights. More than that it will not mirror its patent’s potential and this alone will help it to achieve its goal in life.
Mathioli R. Saraswathy
“Mathioli Saraswathy always believed that good daughters can become an effective mother,” said Seetha Nagarajan, who is a globetrotter and who has been associated with her for nearly four decades now. She goes on to explain that it was because of this the Chennai chapter of Nandalala Seva Samithi began an activity called ‘Mathruseva’ (meaning service to mother) through which the underprivileged were given free food.
Seetha Nagarajan saw Akka open chapters in San Francisco, New Jersey, and Los Angeles. “They were all begun one after the year between 1997 and 1998,” explained Seetha.
She goes on to explain some of the activities in these places. In the early years, volunteers of the Mission took children to local museums, volunteering at local homeless shelters, talent shows, and quiz competitions. As ‘Akka’ always believed in feeding the poor and needy, volunteers focused on services on a larger scale. They distribute sandwich bags, provide meal services at community shelters and soup kitchens. Children too are involved to make them undergo the joy of giving and bliss of social services.
The Mission also provides a platform for children to showcase their talent. “A youth concert series was begun to give a home-concert environment for budding artists. This has not only encouraged children to perform before an august audience but has also been well received by the residents. A concert is organized every month,” said Seetha.
“The Mission also distributes scholarships to well-deserving under-privileged students from India and also reaches out to children on a broader international scale. “Also, on an ongoing basis, the Mission has been donating books to school libraries in Australia, Canada, and India.
Mathioli R. Saraswathy with children
Life of ‘Akka’ who was born in Puducherry on October 9, 1940, was entirely dedicated to philanthropy. With the aim of serving the needy, she began numerous trusts such as Nandalala Seva Samithi, Sri Nandalala Religious Trust, Nandalala Medical Foundation and Yogasaras Educational Academy in Bengaluru, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Tiruchy, and Tiruvananthapuram, in India.
She was always of the view that the trusts helped children not only tread the path of love but also instilled values-based systems and made them imbibe Indian culture.
Apart from the trusts, ‘Akka’ provided financial assistance for the underprivileged in India too. Economically-deserving students were not only given financial assistance to pursue their higher studies, but also uniforms and food. The summer camps held exclusively for children at various places in the city helped them to hone their creativity and learning skills.
Managed under the banner of Nandalala Medical Foundation, she had set up a low-cost dialysis center, clinics for ENT care, eye care, physiotherapy, and acupressure.
‘Akka’ was also a prolific writer. She has penned innumerable poems, songs, prayers and stories for children and philosophical commentaries in Tamil. Some of her works have been translated into English as well. Art was an integral feature in all her books.
In 1998 and 1999, she was awarded the national NCERT award by the Indian Government for her work for children. She was awarded a gold medal in 1991 for her book on science “Vinnilirundhu mann varai” by the Children’s Writers’ Association.
Apart from this, she had the habit of releasing books on Christmas every year and has been doing so for more than three decades. These books were published by Akka to showcase her love for children.
Yes, passing away of this legend has not dimmed her appeal. She still remains a friendly spirit, hovering around.
This is an original post for World Moms Network written by guest poster, Lalitha Sai, in India, as a tribute to ‘akka’.
Lalitha Sai, Journalist, India
Lalitha Sai, is a writer based in Chennai, India. She is happily married to a police officer. Her son is an engineer in Europe, and her daughter is a doctor in Chennai. She has 25 years of experience in journalism and has held posts of senior editor in the leading news dailies of India, “The Hindu” and “DT NEXT”. She focused on women empowerment in her articles.
She is now working as the head of operations of content releases in a private company.
World Moms Network and Heartfulness Institute have joined together to create the new GLOW series of Webinars for introducing women across the world to Heartfulness Meditation.
World Moms Network’s vision statement as you all know is, “We envision a world of peace and equality, born through our common ground of motherhood.”
Over here at World Moms Network and Heartfulness Institute, we believe that this world of peace and equality can be born only if the mind is at peace, and the heart at joy, for every single individual in the world.
For change begins with you, with me, with the woman of the family!
GLOW stands for ‘Genuine Loving Outstanding Women’, and is a series of monthly online workshops for women everywhere to learn and practice Heartfulness meditation in the comfort of their homes or their workplace.
Each webinar will feature an expert speaker, chosen from women who are outstanding in their fields, who have influenced their own family, or their community, or their nation. These women have been change-makers and influencers. They’ve also been able to find peace, joy, and love in their own lives, and have influenced people around them to find the same.
Women are well-placed to create harmony and peace in all areas of life, often starting within families and spreading out into the world. And we’re highlighting just that!
The first webinar in this series is on 5th September 2016, 9:30 AM ET/6:30 AM PT. Calculate your local time here.
The theme for the first in the series of webinars is “Individual Peace Contributes to World Peace. 21st September is celebrated as the UN International Day of Peace.
GLOW Webinar Series
Jennifer Burden, Founder & CEO of World Moms Network
Jennifer Burden hails from the USA and is the founder and CEO of World Moms Network, an award-winning online media organization and website promoting a world of peace through the common bonds of motherhood. Jennifer has been nominated a Global Influencer Fellow and Social Media Fellow by the UN Foundation, invited to the White House, spoken at the World Bank for the right of a universal education for all children, and her writing has been featured on Impatient Optimists, The Huffington Post, ONE.org and BabyCenter. She is the mother of two girls and practices Heartfulness meditation.
Jennifer has been hosting Heartfulness meditation sessions through internal webinars on World Moms Network. In this webinar she will guide us to contribute towards world peace through meditation.
Who Should Attend:
All women, everywhere in the world, are welcome to join! Click here – goo.gl/A2HDy7
New to meditation? These workshops are a perfect place to start! And… you can bring a friend!
For more information, leave a comment below, or write to Glow@heartfulness.org
Hello World Moms!
Today on the blog we are sharing a video and photos from our time at the UN Correspondents Association (UNCA) gala from December 14th, 2015 on the blog!
World Mom, Purnima Ramakrishnan of India, won the Elizabeth Neuffer Bronze award for “Best Reporting on the UN.” She was unable to attend due to family obligations and the floods in Chennai, India, where she resides. In her place, Elizabeth Atalay, our Managing Editor, and I had the honor of accepting Purnima’s award for her at the UNCA gala. It was an incredible night!
Prior to the awards, I was invited to a private cocktail hour with fellow award winners, where we had the honor of meeting UN Secretary General, Ban ki-Moon!
After shaking hands, we had the opportunity for a mini photo session with the UN Secretary General.
Elizabeth and I met up with Dan Thomas, Communications Director and Spokesperson for the President of the UN. We worked with Dan when he was in Switzerland at the GAVI Alliance on a project to help raise awareness for vaccinations in the developing world. It was so fun to finally all meet in person!
Meeting and talking with fellow UNCA award winners was also a highlight of the night!
Please see the full list of the 2015 UNCA award winners at the UNCA.com site.
We are thankful to our community of readers, contributors and editors. Look what we can achieve with you all! Thank you for believing in us. We, at World Moms Blog, are looking forward to 2016 and have a lot of exciting plans to announce in the year ahead!
Happy New Year Around the World,
— Jennifer Burden, Founder and CEO of World Moms Blog
Video credit to UNCA. Photo credit of Jennifer Burden and Ban Ki Moon and the UNCA Award Winners to Jennifer Ehidiamen, whom we met at the UNCA awards.
Photo credit of Elizabeth, Dan and Jennifer to the author.
It is with great honor that we announce that World Moms Blog’s Senior Editor, Purnima Ramakrishnan, has been awarded an Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial prize for print and online coverage of the United Nations and UN Agencies.
Purnima is the joint winner of the Bronze award, which will be awarded at the United Nations Correspondents Association’s (UNCA) gala in New York City on December 14th, 2015 by the guest of honor, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
As an active Senior Editor for World Moms Blog since 2011, Purnima’s posts include celebrating Day of the Girl in India through murals, her response to the Peshawar attacks in 2014, and speaking out after the Nepal Earthquake this year. Previously, she has also written about unwanted girl children in India, the Brazilian health care system, and breaking the caste system in India. You can find all of her posts at World Moms Blog on Purnima Ramakrishnan’s author page.
In addition to her work at World Moms Blog, she reported on poverty issues facing Brazil in her fellowship with The International Reporting Project. In 2013 she was a BlogHer International Activist Scholarship winner and travelled to Chicago, USA to speak on her advocacy for vaccines for children in the developing world. At the BlogHer conference she launched World Moms Blog’s successful 8 month #Moms4MDGs campaign to raise awareness for poverty issues around the world. Purnima has also been featured on The Gates Foundation’s Impatient Optimists blog, the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life blog, The Huffington Post and on Baby Center’s Mission Motherhood™.
“The dinner will be attended by U.N. officials, diplomats, Hollywood celebrities, corporate and cultural organizations and journalists from around the world,” according to the official award notice. We are currently (and excitedly!) coordinating arrangements with the hope that Purnima will be able to travel from India to New York City to accept this prestigious award in person.
It is also with a flood of emotions that we learned about the life of Elizabeth Neuffer, the woman for whom the UNCA award was named. Elizabeth Neuffer was The Boston Globe bureau chief at the U.N., who died in a car crash at the age of 46 while covering postwar Iraq in 2003.
An award winning journalist, she was the first to report that indicted war criminals remained in power in post-war Bosnia, where she spent a year reporting on war crimes. Early on in her career, she reported from federal court in Boston, Capitol Hill during the Clinton Administration, Moscow during the break up of the Soviet Union and the Middle East during the Gulf War. She then became European Bureau Chief from 1994-1998 in Berlin. Elizabeth also dispatched to Africa to report on the 1996 return of Hutu refugees from Zaire to their native Rwanda.
Learning about the life of Elizabeth Neuffer reminds, us, at World Moms Blog that there is so much work left unfinished when it comes to reporting on human rights and justice in the world. We will gladly carry a small spark from the large torch she lit by the example of her leading reporting. It is an honor for Purnima to receive this award as an Senior Editor for World Moms Blog. Congratulations to Purnima Ramakrishnan and the entire World Moms Blog team! We will continue to work hard to provide a voice for women around the world and speak up for those who need us most.
Thank you to the UNCA Awards Selection Committee for their selection and congratulations to all UNCA award winners!
For more on the UNCA.
“Elizabeth Neuffer, 46, Reporter Overseas for the Boston Globe” and Wikipedia Elizabeth Neuffer.
Family living in Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi, Kenya.
Last week, World Moms Blog conducted an exclusive interview with Save the Children’s President and CEO, Carolyn Miles and Vice President of Global Health, Robert Clay at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. Our conversation was around the State of the World’s Mothers Report for 2015, released today! Carolyn had recently returned from Haiti, and was enthusiastic to speak about this year’s findings…
Jennifer Burden: The State of the World’s Mothers Report now covers 179 countries, how many years has it existed?
Carolyn Miles: This is the 16th report, and I have been with Save the Children for 17 years. It came about as a connection between the well-being of mothers and children around the world. The report measures the well-being based on 5 indicators: economic, education, maternal health, child survival and the representation of women in government.
JB: The theme of the report in 2015 seems to focus on urban areas. Save the Children is pulling apart statistical averages in cities. Why?
CM: It is driven by getting to the hardest to reach children. Seventeen thousand children die per day. That has halved from 33,000 since 1990. We are answering the question of, “Where are the hardest to reach children?” And the cities are where the world’s population is going. In 2007 there were 51% of people on the planet living in cities. Today that number is 54%, and the city population is rapidly increasing. Cities are where the children, mothers and parents are living.
Families move to the cities looking for a better life, but in the poorest areas, the urban slums, children there are 2 times as likely to die than the richest kids in the same city.
If you look at the averages, the averages in cities are generally better than in rural areas. But, if you break it down, the poorest kids in cities are 2 times as likely to die as the richest kids in cities. And, those kids are also more likely to die than children in the rural areas.
JB: The urban data — when we think of child survival rates and socioeconomic disparities, most may think of cities such as Kampala, Delhi or Rio, but the report hits home, here, in the U.S. Can you tell us about Washington, D.C.?
CM: Yes, we looked at 25 capital cities in high income countries and the infant mortalities, including the deaths of infants under the age of one. Washington, D.C. was at the bottom. When we compared the wealthiest district and the one with the most poverty, children in the district with the most poverty were 10 times more likely to die than children from the wealthiest district.
Inequality is an important issue in the United States.
Urbanization in 2030 is expected to account for 65% of the population and to further increase in 2050.
Also, a key point is that the data is weak. We are looking at the DHS infant mortality rates, and the world needs to do a better job in accounting for this data.
JB: What was the biggest surprise this year?
CM: It was no surprise that the Scandanavians are always at the top. If we really want mothers and children to have a better life, we should support them.
To give a really specific answer, inequality is killing kids.
I just returned from Haiti 2 days ago. Haiti is in the bottom 10 and hasn’t been there in a long time. Number 1, the country has a very low education rate. Fifty percent of children do not get through primary school. Number 2, the decreased strength in the government slowed progress. I met with a bunch of moms and babies who are getting very basic healthcare, but more has to be done.
(Haiti is tied at number 169 with Sierra Leone in the 2015 Mothers Index Rankings and was just shy of the bottom 10 at number 168 last year in the 2014 Mothers Index Rankings.)
JB: What was the biggest success story?
CM: Panama made a lot of progress this year and has moved up in the rankings. This was driven by education and improvements in the representation of women in their government.
(Panama moved up to number 78 in the 2015 Mothers Index Rankings. That is a jump of 31 spots, from a ranking of number 109 in the 2014 Mothers Index Rankings.)
JB: As I read in the report, Carolyn, you have an interesting “World Mom Moment” that led you to leave the corporate world and work for Save the Children. (According to the State of the World’s Mothers Report 2015, Carolyn was in Manila holding her 6 month old son 20 years ago, and she felt that it wasn’t right that children she saw in poverty would have a very different chance at life than her son. It was that experience that led her to leave the corporate world and join Save the Children.) So, on World Moms Blog, we always ask, “What is your wish for world mothers?”
CM: Yes, I did, in Manila while holding my son when he was a baby! My wish is mostly that every mother has the basics: basic healthcare, that their children can go to school, and in conflict countries that moms and children are protected.
JB: What is the one action you would like us to take and encourage our World Moms Blog community to take to help mothers and children worldwide?
CM: Just one? (laughter) Please go to the Save the Children Web Site!
1) Donate to the programs — there are many choices!
2) Save the Children has a policy ask. To press the US government, a world leader in child and maternal health, to pass the Coons, Graham and Cardin Bill to support global maternal and child health programs. We must keep pushing.
3) In the new UN Goals there is a big focus in inequality. We think that is REALLY important that we ask that these goals are supported in order to reach the most deprived kid. These are the goals that every country will sign off on.
Photo credit to Save the Children.
JB: Next, we have fielded some questions from our World Moms Blog contributors. First, Cindy Levin, the Anti-Poverty Mom in Missouri, USA asks, “What is the biggest area of opportunity to save kids lives this year…vaccines? nutrition?”
CM: It is hard to pick one. This year it’s important to get the new goals right, and we’re pushing for children to be central to them. In 1980 that is how things were done — one goal would be focused on. But when you only have a vertical lens, you’re not taking advantage of the integration of services.
Now, the focus is on smart integration to meet the demands of the children.
For example, in Nepal, the focus is on nutrition, as well as, water and sanitation. If a child is getting proper nutrition, but is drinking dirty water, then they are going to get sick and the nutrition alone won’t help. They have to work together.
JB: Next, our contributor, Kristyn Zalota of Cleanbirth.org in Connecticut, USA asks, “The largest obstacle moms in Southern Laos have to reaching a clinic is distance and lack of transportation. How common an obstacle is this for women worldwide?”
CM: Very common. Transport is a big barrier for women worldwide. Some of the solutions we are using are to construct mother homes next to clinics to decrease the distance, and her family can join her, like a birthing hut system. Another way to get the pregnant mother to the clinic is by ambulance. We line up the ambulances ahead of time in anticipation of the birth. For example, in Uganda, bicycle ambulances are used, and they have a sled in the back for the mother.
JB: Lastly, Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama of Mummy Tales in Kenya asks, “In societies that are very patriarchal and in communities that still uphold retrogressive cultures (this is so in many African cultures), where a woman’s reproductive health decisions are dictated by men (fathers, husbands, brothers, etc.), how is Save the Children working with men in this regard? Any examples?”
CM: This is a really important question. I’ll give you an example in Uganda, where there are lots of family planning clinics available that are supported by the government. But yet, we found that not all mothers were using them because they had not gotten permission from their husbands. So, sometimes access is not the problem.
Save the Children is encouraging and having “family discussions”, a way of bringing men into the discussions. We give them stats, economics, etc. that leads to the the better health of children and family spacing.
Robert Clay: Save the Children also works with adolescents on this topic. We are bringing boys and girls into the discussions before they are having children, and we talk to them about their roles and responsibilities.
Another example of how I have seen this work is through my prior work with USAID. We had soccer games for the boys with an additional afternoon discussion around sexuality. At the beginning, most of the boys only wanted to play soccer and made it clear that was what they preferred to do. Many were hearing for the first time factual information about sex, their roles as men and how to establish responsibility early on. Then, as they attended more discussions, the boys spoke of their preference to spend more time in the discussions than playing soccer!
Additionally, there is a women in government piece to this question. Societies with more women in decision making roles pass policies that are friendly to women and children. And when it comes to economics, when women have money they invest in their children.
Thank you to both Caroline Miles and Robert Clay for this exclusive interview. After the interview, there was a press conference at UN Headquarters including information on the 2015 State of the World Mothers Report. Look out for a follow up post on WorldMomsBlog.com about the press conference.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by founder, Jennifer Burden of New Jersey, USA.
Updated May 5th, 2015. Carolyn had her “World Mom Moment” in Manila, not Hong Kong, as previously stated.
Jennifer Burden, Founder of World Moms Blog with Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children at the United Nations, April 30, 2015.