Eight not-for-profits have presented their own candidate for mother of the year. Haini Ilonen is a divorced mother of five that meets all of the Estonian Women’s Union’s requirements for the award—with the exception that she isn’t married.
The Women’s Union has recently been criticized for its Mother of the Year award’s entry requirements. Members of a social media group started collecting signatures to petition with the union to change the rules towards the end of April, pointing out that there are also those who are raising their children alone, along with same-sex couples, or simply couples that don’t wish to get married.
“There are so many single parents in Estonia, and most of them aren’t single mothers by their own choice,” Kadi Kriit, one of the activists behind the petition, said. Kriit added that at this point they had collected some 440 signatures.
Chairwoman of the Woman’s Union, Siiri Oviir, commented that the award’s rules dated back 20 years to when it was first introduced. According to Oviir, the award’s aim is to promote “a mother that raises children in a safe environment where a child can rely on the mother as well as the father,” and hence the mother of the year being married was one of the conditions.
Oviir later made statements on TV that greatly irritated a large part of the Estonian public, in essence dismissing single mothers as well as unmarried mothers as less than respectable, making a statement to the effect that the award shouldn’t go to women who “introduce a new father to their child every year”.
In Ilonen’s case, the candidate’s divorce was not a result of a lack of determination on the part of the mother, another thing that Oviir found spoke against unmarried or divorced women, but the fact that she had been a victim of domestic violence for years.
The public debate surrounding who is worth the title of Mother of the Year and who isn’t is bringing out ever more people who don’t think marriage should be a requirement. Margo Orupõld, who runs the Pärnu Support Center for Women, one of the not-for-profits backing Haini Ilonen, stresses that they weren’t supporting their candidate out of protest. “Everyone who knows Haini says that there is no better candidate. You notice a good person, don’t you,” Orupõld said.
Ilonen herself said that she was hoping that with the title she could raise awareness of the serious problem of domestic violence in Estonia.
Editor: Dario Cavegn