By Mobina Jaffer : “God could not be everywhere, therefore he created mothers”- Jewish Proverb
A mother is someone who teaches us right from wrong, whose love knows no bounds. She is a mentor, a friend, a confidant, someone who always gives more than she receives. My mother, Gulbanu Sherali Bandali Jaffer, embodied all of these characteristics and on October 5th 2011 when she peacefully passed away in Uganda, the country she came to call home, I truly felt as though I had lost my anchor; my everything.
As messages of condolence poured in, all describing the service my mother had rendered to the citizens of Uganda, I realized that my mother was more than just a mother. She was a teacher, a humanitarian and an advocate.
I remember quite vividly, my mother sitting me, and my five siblings down every evening and helping us with our schoolwork. She always placed great importance on education. Growing up during a time when sons went to school while daughters assumed their roles in the household, she overcame great obstacles and received an education. She was the first female in East Africa to finish the London Matriculation and later went on to pursue post-secondary degrees in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Upon graduation she had the opportunity to pursue the profession of her choice. She chose to become a teacher as this would allow her to give those who were less fortunate the gift of an education. In a heartfelt letter written by the Principle Private Secretary to His Excellency the President of Uganda my mother’s commitment Ugandans was summarized as follows:
“ Her career started as a mathematics teacher where she taught people often older than herself and soon progressed to her becoming Vice Principal. Gulbanu worked hard to get school fees for young children and treated all people equally without regard to race, religion or nationality.”
As a mother to six children my mother’s love was abundant and extended far beyond the family that her and my father created. She loved all the children she worked with as though they were her own, recognizing the potential that each one of them had. She was involved in over 75 adoptions and was the proud godmother to many Ugandans. Among the letters we received shortly after my mom passed away was one written by Mr. Sam K. Kutesa, Uganda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. He stated,
“Mrs. Jaffer spent most of her time working the vulnerable children and the poor. She will be greatly remembered as a selfless and dedicated Ugandan who gave her all to assisting the young and the underprivileged and above all her love for her country.”
Throughout my career as a Senator I have been given the opportunity to do a great deal of work in Africa. I have found myself particularly interested in issues that face women and children and I know that I have my mother to thank for this. I now fight for each child I come across in my work as hard as I would fight for my own because this is what I observed my mother doing throughout her life.
Although my mother had several great qualities the one I admired most was her courage and resilience. Her and my father continued serving their country and their community throughout a very difficult time in Uganda’s history. Throughout Idi Amin’s despotic rule over Uganda, my mother was determined to continue her social and community work as she knew that this was a time when her Ugandan brothers and sisters needed her the most. She worked in prisons, courts and hospitals to help those who were in trouble. Not only did she provide support to those who would have otherwise gone unnoticed, she also often advocated on their behalf. For instance, after witnessing the inhumane conditions that many prisoners were forced to live in, my mother spoke out on their behalf. She drew attention to this injustice and demanded change. She fought for what she believed. She fought for those who were unable to fight for themselves.
My mother was more than just a mother, she took on many roles that were unconventional for women to play during her time. I know she was very grateful to my father who always respected her and supported her in all of her endeavors.
I would like to thank all of those who have written to my family and shared the stories they had of my mother from the bottom of my heart. My family has found peace in your words.
All mothers are special in their own unique way. To those of you who are still fortunate enough to have your mothers by your side, tell them how much they mean to you. Tell them that you love them and that you are proud of them. One thing I’ve learned throughout this journey is that every moment you spend with your mother is one that is to be cherished.
I love you Mama.