With only hours to go till 2015 I thought I should write a quick recap of the year. It has the feel good factor of writing a to-do list of things you’ve already actually done so you get the instant satisfaction of ticking them all off straight away. If I’d written a to-do list at the beginning of this year though I wouldn’t have had a clue where to start. The great thing about this year is that it’s been full of surprises and it really feels like a UK community of young mums are coming together, supporting each other and challenging the myths and negativity. Here are my top 5 amazing things that happened in 2015 for young mums!
Young Motherhood Project
I can’t remember how I first got in contact with Jendella at the beginning of the year but I’m so glad our paths crossed as the Young Motherhood Project has had such a huge impact on everyone involved. Inspired by friends who had children young, Jendella has taken photos and filmed young mums all over the UK for this project about challenging stereotypes and celebrating young motherhood. For many young mums this is the first time their experiences have been recognised and acknowledged, particularly around the stigmatisation of young motherhood and the importance of having people around who just believe in them. The exhibition is still on at RichMix, Shoreditch, till 4th Jan and I guarantee you will go away believing in young mums. I can’t thank Jendella enough for the opportunity to tell our stories and all her hard work in sharing them too!
The Young Motherhood Project has also created the opportunity for a number of young mums meet ups this year. This is something I’ve wanted do since starting Prymface and has been so worth it. This year I have met up with Natalie, Lucy, Sorayah, Isra, Laura, Sophie T, Dee, Sophie K, Grace and Juvin; all amazing young mums who I got to know on Twitter first (apart from Dee who lives round the corner)! Thanks also to everyone who helped us raise money to cover travel expenses to allow this to happen, and especially to Sophie T, who uses all her spoons to travel from Norwich and never lets us down!
One amazing character I’ve got to know this year is Juvin, who has recently launched a new website for young mums called Young Mamas. Juvin is so passionate about improving support for young mums I can’t wait to see what she does next. She has big plans and I have no doubt she will be super successful. Her energy and positivity is infectious! I wish every young mum had a Juvin!
Young Parents Associates
Sometimes people think they don’t need to actually involve young mums to understand the kind of support they need, and the barriers that get in the way. Unfortunately this means sometimes professionals are actually excluding the people they say they want to help. In December I decided to collate a number of posts from young parents onto a blog. This is the result! A place where young parents are recognised as being experts through experience. Huge thanks to all who have contributed, especially Professor Ros Edwards for her latest post on Stigma!
Focus E15 Mums
I can’t take credit for having any involvement in the success story that is the Focus E15 Mums, apart from inadvertently finding myself on their first march round Stratford in July (I only went to observe) and then when I wrote about it for the Telegraph the council demanded the piece was taken down as it clearly hit a nerve (it wasn’t taken down but they insisted on inserting a quote saying the council had helped the young mums all they could, totally contradicting what I’d written!). I realised then that this wasn’t a normal reaction, the tone was one of indignation and anger that people who didn’t matter had dared to speak up, and maybe also a hint of fear that people might actually listen. And eventually they did. The Focus E15 amazing campaign has become mainstream news.The main thing I’ve learnt from the Focus E15 mums though, particularly Jasmin, is that young mums don’t need to change who they are to get listened to. Jasmin is just a shy young 20 year old mum from a hostel who happened to find herself in a situation that she knew was unjust, and so she fought and fought and fought until she was heard. The council assumed that these young mums, with no power of their own, could be ignored and they would simply go away. But these young mums simply refused to accept that. They continue to fight evictions in London and have contributed more to the community spirit in Newham than any ‘professional’ ever has. These are real people, real young mums, telling it how it is. And this is exactly what we need.
Next year we will be taking the Young Motherhood Project to the House of Commons (14th January) to give MPs the opportunity to engage with the project and the issues surrounding it. Thank you so much to everyone who has supported young mums this year: to Tommys for involving young mums in the Young Women’s Guide to Pregnancy, to OnlyMums and OnlyDads for having me on your board (and sticking up for me against Fathers 4 Justice!), to Carly at Bubbalicious for recognising the value of young mothers as peer educators, and to all the young mums, and former young mums, who are out there just doing a great job.
Have a fab 2015!