Leadership is about having a clear vision and the ability to lead. As such, mothers naturally are the primordial and universal leaders of human progeny.
Mothers are and will forever remain the real leaders for future generations. Being at the centre of a child's life they are the source of their earliest and most effective lessons in life. As loving mums, teachers and role models they shape their child's future and are the most influential people up to the age of adolescence.
Since the beginning of human society, family has been an essential organisation where mothers and fathers play the role of raising the future generations and leading them to become effective stewards of our planet. In a child's day-to-day life, mothers and fathers, both, should be the anchors and motivators. For a completely balanced growth of a child both parents are important; they are an essential ingredient of joint parenthood.
Mothers are unique and exceptional in their joy and pain as well as attachment to their offspring during and after pregnancy. Their vision and goals are selfless in order to ensure survival and success of their children. They live by their values of integrity, patience and endurance to create the leaders of our world. They are instrumental in setting up the family culture with their extraordinary people skills. With a sky-high dream for their children they keep on crafting a loving environment in the family that arouses a strong passion for knowledge and spiritual elevation. With their superb listening skills they accommodate and create curiosity in ingenious minds with unlimited potentials. Their sacrifice with physical, emotional and intellectual vigour for their children knows no bounds. The 24/7 modelling of all these qualities is only possible for mothers.
Where mothers and fathers jointly engage in the creative parenting endeavour to produce future leaders, the synergy creates a snowball effect in a society. Effective parenting skills help create a safe, happy and visionary family. This harmony and support between a mother and father in a family setting is essential to build a thriving society with families as the building blocks.
However, general misogyny and oppression on the one hand and objectification of women on the other have always undermined women in human history. Gender parity has significantly improved in recent decades, especially in the developed countries, but unequal power dynamics where women are systematically disadvantaged, undermined or pigeonholed as a commodity remain the main barriers against human dignity and equality.
The perception on women and an imbalance in gender roles has often given rise to confusion or even a crisis in gender discourse throughout history, in both developing and developed societies. A YouGov survey published on International Women's Day in 2016 in Britain found nearly two thirds of women of all ages and 85% aged between 18 and 24 experienced sexual harassment in public places. Even in our highly developed country, women still face persistent levels of violence. There is also the big issue of gender discrimination in our workplaces.
Men and women have their unique natural features and boundless potentials. This is the splendour of our multi-coloured human garden.
From a religious point of view, according to Islam, God has 'honoured the children of Adam' (Qur'an 17:70); men and women are created in 'pairs' (Qur'an 78: 8) with complementary roles. But many religious communities, including some Muslims, treat women in an undignified way. Ignorance and cultural baggage are the main causes.
The diminution of a fathers' role in a family has been a major issue in our time. The callous abdication of fatherhood responsibility by many men has put intolerable burdens on mothers. Inappropriate attitude towards the opposite sex and a sexual revolution has increased infidelity in man-woman relationships; promiscuity harms women more, as they are the ones who bear the consequences of unwanted pregnancies. Transitory relationships between men and women have massively increased the number separation and divorces between partners. In the overwhelming majority of cases, this leaves women to shoulder the burden of parenthood alone.
As single parents, mothers are obviously disadvantaged. They struggle to earn their livelihood and single-handedly raise children on their own. This undoubtedly affects mothers and the strain of lone-parenting impacts many children who grew up in the absence of a male role model in their formative years. More needs to be done to support all single mothers in any society.
Due to a pleasure-seeking laissez fair sexual lifestyle, pregnancy is also being feared by many women. This is evident in the continuously declining birth rates in many developed countries over decades; this is creating a demographic uncertainly in some parts of the world as the demographics skew towards the elderly.
Women and men, mothers and fathers, will continue to be the grass-root leaders for every generation of newcomers on earth. A balanced gender discourse with two parents complementing each other and sharing the burden and joy together can only guarantee our balanced social upliftment. An unprejudiced gender role that gives natural dignity to women and men, not political correctness or social engineering, is the only way to find solace in our family and peace in the society.
Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari is a noted civic leader, intellectual-activist and commentator.