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Last year at CSW an Indian woman, Ms. Sai, from an organization called Swayam Shikshan Prayog reported on a project in which rural women were making and selling solar-powered lamps. A Moroccan woman listened in complete awe. During the Q&A she said that she is from a similarly patriarchal country and asked, “How do you deal with the patriarchal structure in changing the structure in agriculture and women’s leadership roles?”

Ms. Sai’s response was striking. She said that they had begun with a rights-based approach, which was completely ineffective. They learned that it was overwhelmingly more effective to take a family-based approach. When men and children attend trainings with the women they become the women’s biggest supporters. Then she told this story:

In one village there was a death during the night and there was no electricity. The women supplied solar lamps so that last rites could be performed for the deceased. The next day thirty lamps sold because the community saw their value. The women were not trying to make sales. They saw a need and filled it. And the good they did was reciprocated. To me this is an abundant manifestation of the power of a family-based approach, which is central to maternal feminism.

A fundamental part of maternal feminism is fatherhood. One of our tenets is, “We value the irreplaceable role of fathers and build interdependent relationships with men.” If women are as wonderful as we claim, then we do not need to degrade men in order to be our best. On the contrary, both women and men shine the brightest and do the most good when they build each other up.

As Big Ocean Women we define mothers as any woman who has the best interest of the rising generation(s) at heart and works toward safeguarding their future. It follows that fathers can be similarly defined as any man who has the best interest of the rising generation(s) at heart and works toward safeguarding their future.

Whatever good we might do as women to shore up the rising generation, how much more could we do if we took a family-based approach?