News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 10, 2014

Flashpoint: Immigrant, refugee mothers struggle to protect families

Mastora Bakhiet
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — In 2004, I brought my small family from Darfur to the United States of America, leaving my mom, sisters, brothers and relatives back home.

On this Mother’s Day, I wanted to use this opportunity to send wishes to my mom for the first time in my life and talk about the importance of keeping families together.

I would like to say to my mom that she is a unique mother, she is a wise lady, and she was born with great leadership. She was an honor student; however, when she was 13 years old, the decision was made for her to marry her father’s friend, who had two other wives and so many kids.

When my father passed away, my mom found herself in incredible challenges. She was a young, pregnant mom with three kids in a culture that devalues the work that a mother does for children, family, community and the national economy. She had become responsible for kids while she was very young, but she demonstrated strong leadership, wisdom and strength. She fit in so many positions based on the situation; she was a nurse, a housewife, a sister, monitor, counselor, protector and business woman. She was the one I could return to. She was my security and strength, even though we were in the least-developed and disadvantaged region, Darfur, Sudan.

Despite all this responsibility, she never forgot that her decisions were made for her. But she never stated or implied that she regretted being our mom. She pushed us as girls to continue our education, even though she put herself through hard criticism. She gave me guidance to make my decision. As a result, my marriage was not arranged, unlike my half-sisters and my colleagues. Without the guidance from my mom, I couldn’t be a mom today.

I feel incredibly privileged to be an American citizen. The protections of our Constitution allow me to be the best person I can be. At the same time, I feel for those who try to protect their families by coming to America without legal status. Many children are separated from their mothers because of deportation. These mothers, like mine, only want their children to have a better life in America. We need to show compassion to these woman with comprehensive immigration reform.

I would like to meet my mom in person. We have not met since 2003. I need to say to her that she is in my heart and in my mind whenever I am in a difficult situation. I need to serve her and to tell her that I appreciate all the sacrifices she made to raise me. I need to tell her that I love her so much and to say to my mom that I experienced motherhood. It is the most difficult job. However, she inspired me to be a great mom and to support my small family, even though being an immigrant is a hard challenge.

With my mother and husband’s support, I devoted myself to do two things. The first one is to provide anything for my children and my family. I am blessed to come with my husband and my three kids to America to support them to have a decent education to contribute positively to both countries.

The second thing is to empower the disadvantaged moms who gave everything and got nothing back, or who were forced to leave their villages to end up in refugee camps. I promised these moms I would do whatever I could to raise awareness to bring peace in Darfur so these women can return home.

This is why I founded Darfur Women Network, to achieve this mission. Anyone, mother or child, who is touched by the story of my mother’s sacrifices, can send a Mother’s Day gift to devastated refugee women from Darfur in refugee camps, to produce their food to feed their kids. Please, visit www.darfurwomennet

Mastora Bakhiet founded Darfur Women Network in Indianapolis in 2007. DWN envisions using principles of social justice to empower women and girls from Darfur, so they can become agents of their own personal and social change, in a respectful and dignified manner.