The second Sunday in May is celebrated as Mother’s Day here in the United States (and in other countries). With that in mind, I asked my colleagues who are also mothers at WITNESS if they’d be willing to share some thoughts on what human rights issues hit closest to home for them.

I, too, am a WITNESS mom, and share my thoughts at the end of the post. If you are a mother and feel strongly about a human rights issue in light of your parenting role, or want to reflect on an issue that is or was of special importance to your mother, we’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.

And to mothers everywhere we wish you peace and a Happy Mother’s Day.

Claire Davis

“For me, the work we do on gender-based violence (GBV) hits closest to home.  My mother was a survivor of sexual assault when she was in her 50s. She turned a horrible experience into a call for action, working with the Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center, Inc. (formerly, the Stephanie Roper Commission) and legislators in Maryland to help enact one of the first victim’s rights laws in the USA.

I honor her dedication and resilience by doing my part to support the GBV program here at WITNESS.”


Grace Lile

“If there is one issue that hits home for me as a mother it is the right to home and community.  I grapple with the typical challenges of many working mothers, but I have had the luxury of raising my sons in a safe home in a secure community, un-threatened by the kinds of arbitrary and illegal forced evictions that affect an estimated 15 million people each year.  These displacements wreak untold miseries on families and communities, increasing poverty, interrupting education, and impeding access to clean water and healthcare.  What I take for granted – so many other mothers in the world cannot.  This needs to change.

As the Talmud put it, and I would put to my two teenage sons: ‘While it is not your duty to finish the work of social justice, neither are you free to desist from it.'”

Check out our work on ending forced evictions.

“One of the areas I feel passionate about today is climate change. I believe we have a moral and legal obligation to ensure a healthy environment for our children and future generations to grow up in.

How will I face my son in the years to come when he asks me why our governments and communities knowingly destroyed the planet and the most precious things on earth?  I am inspired by children around the world who stand up for their own rights and the rights of others, who are already speaking out about the injustices they see.  At WITNESS, we have been working with an incredible group of youth activists who are suing the Federal Government and demanding that we live up to our responsibilities to protect our children and our planet.  Check out their powerful stories in these stunning short documentaries that show the unique environments these youth are growing up in and how climate change has already begun to adversely impact their families and communities and livelihoods.

Children and future generations have the most at stake but did nothing to cause the problem. I hope I will be able to look my son in the eye and tell him that although we left it until it was almost too late, our generation had the courage and political will to make changes that reversed the severe damages to our environment.”

“The first time I watched A Duty to Protect: Justice for Child Soldiers in the DRC, I was in The Hague for International Criminal Court (ICC) meetings, then as the Program Director for the Coalition for the ICC (CICC). It was a long week of meetings, and since I was still breastfeeding my first child, I decided to bring her and my mother along.

So there we were, in a packed WITNESS/CICC reception, three generations looking up at the screen. I am relatively tough skinned having worked in the international justice field for a long time. Yet, the story of these child soldiers, took on a whole new meaning as my own child dangled in my arms. It wasn’t the scenes of the small kids carrying guns over half their size, or the description of girls being sexually exploited, that bothered me the most. It was the moment at the end, when one child soldier, unaware of the camera was laughing and smiling, that was devastating. You imagine what her life could have been. What her life should have been. The life I hope for my daughter. What my mother hoped for me.”

Sara Federlein

“I began working at WITNESS before I had children, but once I became a mom my commitment to our work only intensified. I’m continually inspired by our courageous partners who are risking their lives to make the world a better place for the next generation. And I’m especially excited about our new Cameras Everywhere program which is enabling young people everywhere to use video and technology more safely and effectively.

I hope that I can play a role, however small, in realizing this new landscape and in giving my daughters the courage to speak out for themselves against Injustice.”


Me (Matisse)

“The death of Libyan citizen journalist Mohammed Nabbous last March was tragic enough. Then I learned that he left behind a wife who was to give birth to their first child later that summer. It brought the conflict in Libya into stark relief for me. Here was a young family, very similar in makeup to mine, whose future was changed irrevocably because Mo was determined to show the world what was happening in his neighborhood. His widow, Perdita, signed onto his livestream channel and pleaded with supporters around the world not to let his death be in vein.

While we can’t prevent a sniper in Libya, Syria, or any other country from targeting a citizen who is using video to document war crimes, we at WITNESS are working with activists in those countries to create sharable resources to encourage safer filming techniques. We’ve created a series of video for change tips in Arabic that we’re sharing through our Middle East and North Africa program.

I respect and honor the work that Mo and his wife Perdita did to help open the eyes of the world to events in Libya, by doing my part to help share these resources as widely as possible.”


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