Project

Un-mothering the woman

This project aims to dismantle the stereotypes about motherhood. It will use a digital narrative art form, to interview single mothers, first time mothers, queer mothers, men who are mothering, grandmothers and women who don’t want to be mothers. It will draw and string narratives from experiences of mothering or motherhood intersected with the understanding of portrayal and stereotypes and collect content from a cross-section of content creators across social media and other women identified online and offline to curate stories.

I am hoping you will help us start this dialogue, share our conversations and be part of this story telling.
Amina Jasho (Un-mothering the Woman Project partner)

About the Project

In many African cultures, motherhood is not honored by others; instead, it is seen as a type of duty the woman must perform. The duty is not solely becoming a mother and having children, but also the correct upbringing of the baby in order for it to grow in the community. At the very base of our society’s definition, mothering includes the act of birthing and raising children.

In our societies we give persons who incubate and birth children the term mother.  Mothering has become this socialized notion of innate nurturing whereby it’s expected for women to “instinctively” become nurturers.This attitude isn’t limited to just media—in Kenya motherhood is inextricably tied to the language of morality. Over and over, the message reinforced to expectant women and mothers is that there’s a “right” and a “wrong” way to do things. You can’t be single and be a good mother, you can’t be queer and be a good mother or even how to be a good mother while holding a political office. As a result, our culture has adopted the belief that sacrifice and suffering- in silence- are simply the costs of becoming a “good” mother.

Aside from religious and cultural ideals that cloud views of how mothering should happen, society has created images that denote who is a good or bad mom.  Reading Susan Douglas’s The Mommy Myth, one can understand how the media has been portraying mothering. The insistence that no woman is truly complete or fulfilled unless she has children, that women remain the best primary caretakers of children, and that to be a remotely decent mother, a woman has to devote her entire physical, psychological, emotional, and intellectual being, 24/7, to her children.

Project Introduction

Amina Jasho- Un-mothering the Woman Project Partner

Caroline Kioko- Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Programme Coordinator, Gender Democracy

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Mom-ing Online

Depending on your background, no-one would have known who you are as a child. The only record of you was probably in photo albums or home videos that lived in your house or a relatives house, and government or medical records. Then came the era of the internet and social media, where the majority of us are sharing pieces of our lives with the world......Read More

This episode features a woman who has chosen to share her mothering journey online. We get into the details of how she made her choice, the community she has managed to build around her, as well as the challenging parts of her journey, as a mother, and as a mother online. We explore the issue of consent for children among other things.

Queer Mothers

The children of non-hetero couples are considered the most planned for children. Whether through surrogacy, adoption or pregnancy through a father/sperm donor, these couples are intentional about when they would like children to be a part of their lives. Depending on the preferred route to parenthood, there are some significant structural constraints and financial costs associated with trying to have children......Read More

This episode features women who are mothering while queer. In the first episode on this topic, we speak to a woman who embraced her queer identity after the birth of her son.  We explore what unique challenges (if any) she faces as she parents while queer.

The second episode features a woman who only recently began to live out her gender. We explore the formation of her chosen family, among some of her other experiences.

The last episode on this topic features a woman who chose motherhood while already living out her queer identity.  She tells us more about her experience with healthcare providers during the prenatal and post-natal period, as well as her general experience of parenting and being queer.

Regretting Motherhood

Our society generally projects the joys of childrearing and pregnancy as greater than the challenges. However, there are a lot of instances where that is not the case. Different women in different circumstances could easily have experiences where they regret becoming mothers; either because they were not ready for it, or because the union that the child was intended to be brought into was broken, or any other number of reasons...... Read More 

In the first video on this topic, we speak to a woman who, by most societal standards, seemed to have a great life with a wonderful spouse and healthy thriving children. We explore the various seasons in her motherhood journey, including those where she questioned her choice to have children, the resentment that followed, and her evolution and learnings through those seasons.

In the second video, we speak to a woman whose family planning method failed (twice) and what that meant for her and her life moving forward, including her feelings and reflections on the trajectory her life took.

In the third video on this topic, we share reflections of a woman, who, abandoned by her own mother, now has her wounds reopened by the experience of becoming a mother herself. She takes us through her longing for her experience to be validated, her experience of post-partum depression, and how she found her way back to herself.

Woman-ing with No Children

Our society views the default “entry” into legitimate womanhood as the birthing of a child. Women who legally adopt children come a close second in the hypothetical hierarchy of “legitimate” womanhood....Read More

 

In this episode, we speak to a woman without children, who would love to have children of her own. She speaks to us about her journey of trying to conceive, and what her experience of society’s stigma has been.

 

In the  second video on this topic,  we speak to a woman who has opted not to have children. She speaks to us about her experience taking care of her siblings in her early adulthood (which was akin to mothering in a number of ways) and how her decision not to have children has been received by society.

Regulating Motherhood

Regulating Womanhood attempts to explore how children and the organisation of reproduction and sexuality operated to normalise and make acceptable the degree of regulation to which women were subjected. How do we shed light on women’s resistance and activity, and on the shift in modes of regulation, to challenge the idea of an unchanging history of the legal oppression of women...Read More

 

In this video, we speak to an advocate of the high court , and mother, about her experience as a woman at the workplace, and the ways in which the law is not protecting women and mothers adequately in Kenya.