NEWS

UN Women campaign tackles Mideast taboo about revealing mother's name

03/23/2015 06:20 EDT | Updated 05/23/2015 05:59 EDT
She may be "Mom" to you, but your mother also has a first name. Like any other person, a mother's given name is a major part of her personal and professional identity.​

Having a child doesn't change this for the majority of Canadians, but a Middle Eastern taboo against publicly speaking one's mother's name effectively leaves women in some parts of the world nameless after they have children. 

The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (also known as UN Women) is tackling this issue head-on as Mother's Day approaches, with a new initiative it calls #MyMothersNameIs.

"For men in Egypt and in many other countries in the Middle East, there is a peculiar taboo of not disclosing one's mother's name in public, lest her name become a subject of shame and ridicule in public forums," says UN Women in the description of a campaign video it released on Friday.

"Over time, her name becomes forgotten, and she's only referred to as ‘The mother of her eldest son,'" the description continues. "UN Women's 'Give Mom Back Her Name' initiative is simple yet powerful and aims to take steps to eradicate this taboo and giving mothers in Egypt and the Middle East their names back in public fora."

The UN's YouTube video has been viewed about 60,000 times since Friday. A copy of it posted to an Egyptian news channel's Facebook page on Saturday, however, has been viewed a whopping 1.4 million times with more than 36,000 shares in just two days.

UN Women is currently encouraging people on Twitter to change their profile pictures and use the hashtag #MyMothersNameIs in support of the campaign, which was created with Impact BBDO Dubai.  

Approximately 1,400 people have used the hashtag since the initiative launched, many of them to proudly and publicly share their moms' names.

On Facebook, UN Women Egypt is posting photos of both women and men holding up signs bearing their mother's names and asking its followers to join in.

"We encourage everyone, especially men and boys, to proudly speak up their mothers' names and share their names on a personal photo," reads a post on the organization's timeline.

The UN acknowledges in its campaign materials that the region targeted with this initiative "has many challenges to overcome to reach gender equality."

It is the organization's goal simply to "open a larger conversation of women's rights and gender equality in the Middle East and the world."

"A woman's name should never be associated with shame or embarrassment," said Mohammed Naciri, UN Women regional director, in a statement about #MyMothersNameIs. "This Mother's Day, we are reclaiming that space and recognizing women for the incredible individuals they are, not only as the mother of her eldest son." 

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