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.
Amina Jasho- Un-mothering the Woman Project Partner
Caroline Kioko-Heinrich Boell Stiftung Programme Coordinator, Gender Democracy
Caroline Kioko- Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Programme Coordinator, Gender Democracy
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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.
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.
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 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.
Reflections from the Campaign
These past few weeks have been full of learning and amazement at the community that we have been able to rally around these conversations.
This video provides a moment for us to reflect on the conversations we’ve had and the people we’ve interacted with throughout this storytelling campaign.
What stood out the most for you? What surprised you? What resonated with you? What’s next for this conversation?
Let us know in the comments below! You can also catch more on this conversation on our social media platforms below.
#unMotheringtheWoman Instagram: @unmotheringthewoman Facebook: Unmothering the Woman Twitter:@HBSNairobi
Amina Jasho: Unmothering the Woman Project Partner
Caroline Kioko, Programme Coordinator, Gender democracy
Mothering during COVID-19 Pandemic
When WHO declared COVID as a pandemic in March 2020, overnight, countries closed schools, higher education institutions, workplaces, and shut down borders. This left people scrambling to adapt, and remote work and distance learning became the new norm. This unique dynamic had a considerable impact on families, who now lived, worked, and educated in the same living space.
Women, who already did about three quarters of the cleaning, cooking, child-rearing—the unpaid work that, according to economists, makes all paid work possible—with schools closed and everyone staying closer to home, during the pandemic, women did more caregiving than ever. At the same time, disruptions to health systems put important services like family planning and prenatal care out of reach for millions of women.
In the first video Renee Aluoch Okoye and Maggie Muga share their challenges and fears on child care responsibilities as mothers during the pandemic.
In the second video, Dr. Jemimah Kariuki, the founder Wheels for Life, a free ambulance service for mothers in labour after dark, talks about how 'Wheels for Life project ' supported pregnant mothers to access medical care amid COVID-19 pandemic.
Mothering from Prison
Even though both imprisoned women and men may be parents; research shows that maternal incarceration can often be far more disruptive for mother and child than when a father is sent to prison. Imprisonment can severely alter, disrupt, or even terminate mothering. Pregnancy, delivery, lactation, and parenting each require special consideration. For example, Breastfeeding, despite being recommended by doctors, is problematic for prisoners who have been separated from their children. Often seen by society as giving up on or abandoning their children, women in prison tend to invoke less empathy or tolerance than women whose mothering is disrupted through other means, such as illness.
In this video Mrs Fathiya Kwamweru shares her perspectives on the challenges of mothering while in and out of prison. The video also highlights the motherhood roles that her daughters took up in the abscence of their mother.
Mothering and Mental Health
Maternal mental disorders are understood as a wide range of emotional and psychological reactions a woman may experience during pregnancy or within 12 months of delivery. Maternal mental disorders include maternal depression as well as perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. The term maternal depression encompasses a range of conditions that can affect women during pregnancy and up to one year postpartum. This spectrum of conditions includes prenatal depression, the "baby blues," postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis.
Motherhood is not all cuddles and baby kisses, but can be filled with sleepless nights, personal sacrifice, and self-doubt.In these videos Christine Kimani Kibuye and Wambui June Lamu talk about mothering and postpartum depression, how they felt disconnected, sad, empty after childbirth.
A leading researcher into the pain daughters suffer from Mothers Kelly McDaniel has coined the term Mother Hunger to describe the hurt and pain that is the legacy of this relationship.
In the first video, Saitonne Righa talks about her experience with the darker side of maternal behavior and her serious craving of having a loving mother. Mother Hunger is a term that Saitonne Righa created to describe what it feels like to grow up without a quality of mothering that imprints emotional worth and relational security.
In the second video we speak to Silas Miami, talks about his definition of a toxic mother in relation to his childhood experience in regards to how his mother treated him.
Watch, learn and share. #UnmotheringTheWoman