In Tanzania, there’s a saying that goes ‘nani kama mama?‘ – and the gist of it is ‘there’s no one like a mother.’ It captures some of the awe around all that a mother is expected to do: birth, nurture, clean, fetch water, put food on the table, and manage the household. A woman has little leftover once all her work is done.

The world Violeth Masoud grew up in was defined by traditional notions of the family unit. She remembers her neighbors’ 18-year-old son impregnating their housemaid. The family rushed to marry the two, attempting to negate the disgrace. But there was no love to hold the union together. Not a week after the birth, Violeth heard screams from next door. She ran to investigate and found the boy – ‘I don’t call him a man’ – striding out of the house, having exercised his husbandly prerogative to beat his new wife.

Domestic violence is so common and expected, but Violeth could never get used to it. Imagine women do all this work and get beaten on top of it. You are told to pray for your husband if you fall foul of his fists.

Violeth shakes her head.

It’s a testament to her family that she finds the notion so abhorrent. Her father, Joseph, the director of Save the Rain, is the gentlest giant you will ever meet. Joseph raised his daughters to know their worth and to know their minds. Violeth works alongside him, as does her brother Kelvin (their little sister Rose is too busy focusing on becoming president). Violeth can’t imagine sacrificing her independence and her career to stay home, subject to the whims of a husband.

Redefining Motherhood

When she realized she wanted to be a mother, she decided to do it alone. She’s 26 years old. Clifford was born just over a year ago, and Violeth is still aglow. Cliff now has a big brother, too. Emmanuel lived in an orphanage until Violeth recently welcomed him into her home.

It’s said that it takes a village, but sometimes, it takes an individual to be the example a village needs. Violeth has defined motherhood on her own terms. The same goes for the kind of men she’s raising her boys to become. They’ll know a woman’s worth, she vows. And with an example like her, how could they not?

Motherhood can take so many forms, and ‘family’ can be a generous term that enfolds everyone in its embrace. We should know; we live it every day. The Masouds were Save the Rain’s first recipients. In every sense of the word, we have all grown together. Welcoming the next generation, it’s evident that exquisite potential is always there, ready to come to life and manifest in its full abundance. Just add water.

For Mother’s Day, give the gift of clean water.

If the walk for water takes you away from your children up to ten hours a day,

clean water at home lets you be the mother you want to be.

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In motherhood, the axis of your world shifts. And each mother of the Women’s Water Initiative team has been there. The women all want a different life for their children than what they had. Circumstances of birth, marriage and misfortune narrowed their possibilities until the gift of clean water opened them up and allowed them to dream. Each was first a recipient of a rainwater harvesting tank. Read more