Malawi: Beautiful statement of a mother’s love

Malawi: Beautiful statement of a mother’s love

Date: August 24, 2012
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Blantyre, 24 August – A year after graduating from a secretarial school, Mary Edna Mphepo got employment at the University of Malawi. She saw her job at the university as an avenue to finally enroll for a degree at the same. However, she got pregnant and had to put her dream on hold until 20 years later when she returned to school after all her children had grown up.

Never, even in our naughtiest moments as children, when we defied her orders, fought amongst ourselves or ran off at odd hours of the day, did she mention that she had sacrificed a lot to be there for us. When I ask her about this now, she says she never considered it a sacrifice, but the most beautiful testament of a mother’s love and a wife’s loyalty.

Looking back, I realise that my mother gave a lot of herself for us to grow as a family. I remember her photocopying short prayers and placing them on the wall right above our beds so we could recite them each night and in the morning when we woke up.

Having her first child at 22, her second at 23 and getting married earlier than she had planned never robbed her of the chance to become a dynamic career woman.

I remember how, despite being tired from a hard day’s work as a secretary at the government printers, she would come home to make dinner and then make sure that all of us ate our vegetables! She would sit down with my brothers and I, help us write our homework and revise for class the next day.

She would then bake cakes for sale where my father worked and at my primary school, just so the family could have extra income. Before she went to bed each night, she cleaned the house and made sure we all had packed lunch. She never seemed to tire and yet at the time, we took all her efforts for-granted.

As a secretary within government, she managed to attend some courses and seminars abroad, and each time she travelled she brought back an ornament or two for the home, clothing for my father and her children. Rarely did she get anything for herself.

Like other enterprising women, my mother started a business supplying stationery and other things to the Government. This saw the birth of Rollers Enterprise, my mothers small company.

However, as a wife and mother of four young children, she could only travel as much and eventually she had to leave the ‘running around’ to others who have since become well established in Malawi’s private sector. When she mentions how they started out together, with little else apart from determination and a few orders, I realise that letting Rollers Enterprise roll is yet another sacrifice she made for us. I am truly grateful for it.

Never one to give up easily, she tried her hand at other businesses, selling clothes, eggs, chickens and confectionary. She used the savings from this business to pay school fees for my brother after his bursary had been frozen (remember the time when all students who had been selected on merit and were on bursaries had to start paying school fees when Kamuzu Banda lost power). My brother managed to finish his education at the ‘Eton of Africa’, Kamuzu Academy.

In 2000, after the last born in our family turned eight, my mother began recollecting the beads in the broken string of her dreams in earnest. At 51 years old, she enrolled for a degree course and, shortly after attaining her degree she proceeded to study towards a Master’s Degree in Strategic Management. She said she could pursue her education guilt-free as she had given us the best of her.

Upon completing her master’s degree, Mphepo got promoted from Secretary to the Chief Justice to the Principal Courts Administrator at the High Court of Malawi. Today, she is the Chief Maintenance Officer for the Judiciary responsible for coordinating and overseeing rehabilitation and construction of Magistrate courts throughout the country.

My mother could have chosen to pursue her education as other women do. She could have looked for a better job that enabled her to bring a substantial amount of money to the table and push the family finances even higher. She could have chosen to get into business full throttle and leave us under the care of the nanny. But she didn’t.

She chose to be there for us in all senses of the word. She chose to bake us cakes each weekend; to take us shopping at the market; to help us get ready for school each morning; to put us to bed each night; to watch us take our first steps in our careers; to correct us when we took the wrong path; and to teach us little things such as ‘chewing with our mouths closed’ among other things.

My mother chose to colour our childhood memories with her presence, her guidance and her love. This unheralded sacrifice is worth celebrating.

Akossa Mphepo is a journalist based in Malawi. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service, special series on celebrating phenomenal women, bringing you fresh views on everyday news.




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