Monday, January 12, 2015

Reducing shame, creating change, and letting us talk: Jendella's Young Motherhood Project

Young Motherhood Project Preview Trailer from JENDELLA. on Vimeo.

Photographer, filmaker and writer, Jendella Benson took on a very interesting and stereotype shattering photo project; photographing former teenage mothers who wanted to share their perspective about having there children in their teens. 
I have been following Jendella for some time on Twitter and was excited when one of my writer sheroes Britni Daniel shared "We're Glad We Chose to be Mothers in our Teens" photo series by Jendella with me. 
The piece is an overview of the entire project and the motivations Jendella had to create the project. Below are some excerpts from the piece. 
Lucy was 17 when she got pregnant. What’s your reaction to that sentence? Go on, be honest. Possibly – probably, even – it was similar to the reaction of Lucy’s doctor. “Unfortunately, Lucy is pregnant,” he wrote in the letter of referral to the midwives. Lucy never forgot how she felt when she saw that letter: it was her moment of realisation about how she would be viewed from now on. “I was surprised people were so disapproving. This was 1998 and I thought it would be no big deal.” 
But young motherhood is a big deal, as Lucy’s experience testifies. She is one of the subjects of a photographic project that next week gets an airing at the House of Commons where its originator, Jendella Benson, hopes it will prompt MPs to question their preconceptions and prejudices about the girls and women who choose, in one guise or other, to become mothers in their teens. The problem with those preconceptions, says Benson, is that they colour everything for the young women. How are they supposed to be positive and upbeat about the most difficult job in the world when everyone around them is mired in negativity and predictions of doom?
How many of us have felt like this?
“The mothers I interviewed felt they were being written off. Motherhood is hard enough at any age, but the hardest thing for these women wasn’t the baby, it was existing in a society that condemned them from the outset.” 
And the reality for many teenage parents is:
“Having a baby when you’re young isn’t a catastrophe, it’s an opportunity: most of the women I met talked about how it transformed their lives in wholly positive ways. The hardest thing they had to deal with wasn’t the baby – it was other people’s prejudice.” 
Read more about the project here.
To learn more about the Young Motherhood project and photo series click here.