Skip to content

International Women’s Day – Celebrating the strength of a mama

International Women’s Day – Celebrating the strength of a mama

Today is International Women’s Day, a chance to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness about discrimination and work towards gender equality. The theme for this year is #EmbraceEquity.

To mark this, we are putting a spotlight on one of our inspirational referral partners, Project MAMA – a Bristol based charity that supports pregnant and new mamas from migrant backgrounds, many of whom are asylum seekers and refugees.  The ProjectMAMA team offers individually-focused, holistic support to people from migrant backgrounds throughout pregnancy, labour and childbirth and early parenthood. 

Those referred to ProjectMAMA are typically destitute or at risk of homelessness; have a history of mental health concerns; are survivors of trauma, abuse, modern slavery or human trafficking. These complex vulnerabilities are exacerbated through socio-economic, linguistic, political and systemic boundaries which affect access to healthcare and wellbeing outcomes of the mamas and their babies. Whilst experiencing multiple layers of disadvantage and marginalisation, displaced mamas are less likely to have a birth partner or support network and experience acute isolation.

ProjectMAMA’s Mother Companions offer 1:1 perinatal support, helping mamas to prepare for birth and understand their choices through: sharing information and signposting to other agencies; listening to concerns, giving encouragement and reassurance; discussing rights and entitlements in pregnancy; facilitating communication between mamas and care providers; attending labour and births to ensure no mama gives birth alone; providing tailored support over the first eight weeks after birth.

Their MAMAhub is a weekly drop-in for mamas throughout pregnancy and early parenthood until their baby is two years old. It is a place that promotes solidarity and mutual support for mamas and their babies to come and socialise with other mothers whilst offering a hot, home-cooked meal and activities such as; baby massage, henna, crafts, music and dancing.

Each year ProjectMAMA supports around 50 mamas through their Mother Companions Project and 30 through MAMAhub. In 2022 they supported mamas from 22 different countries, speaking 19 different languages. The impact this can have is immense, and best summed up in the words of one of the women ProjectMAMA recently supported:

“[They] made me very safe and confidence that I could do what was before me and that I am never alone. They told me I could call any time of the day or night and they would be there for me. They were both there for me, they did all they promised and more. They consoled, they comforted, they listened, they helped and they supported me in any way and all ways I needed them to […]. They were present at the hospital, they pulled together my hospital dos and don’t. They makes sure my wish and needs are meant and respect and they were there all the way to help. When my baby came, they […] taught me to support him, to hold him, taught me not to be afraid, told me my best way good enough and my instinct as a mother is 100 perfect. They will educate me but never force any of their knowledge on me but allow me to understand and consider and then if I want it, make use of it. […] [W]e are thriving so beautifully.

Local collaboration means a human response

At Baby Bank Network Bristol we are proud to collaborate with ProjectMAMA to help ensure the women they support have the essential items needed for their newborns. In 2022 we received 30 referrals from ProjectMAMA.

Through collaborating with small local organisations such as Baby Bank Network Bristol, ProjectMAMA is able to offer a more personal, bespoke and human response to mamas. Many of whom are destitute, not allowed to work and are provided with just £45 per week to live on. This results in a vast economic barrier in accessing essential items to prepare for and support them in their parenting journey.

Through Baby Bank Network supplying essential items such as nappies, toiletries, baby clothes and a safe place for their baby to sleep, some concerns and anxiety about providing for their baby can be alleviated. This means the mamas can focus on safely bringing their baby into the world, and adapting to their new role.

Celebrating the strength of mamas

Baby Bank Network Bristol and ProjectMAMA work with families in Bristol who are often experiencing poverty and a complex set of challenges, whilst also preparing for and becoming a parent. We know just how tough this can be at the best of times, and so today we are celebrating all the women and mamas out there who inspire us everyday. Esther Deeks, ProjectMAMAs Service Coordinator sums it up nicely…..

“For us, International Women’s Day is a day of celebration. Our work is all about incredible, powerful mamas and we will be taking time this year to acknowledge all of the women we have supported at Project MAMA from whom we have learnt endless lessons on strength and resilience. However, systemic and societal discrimination and injustices remain, affecting so many women and birthing people, we take this day as another reminder that more work needs to be done.”

To find out more about ProjectMAMA visit www.projectmama.org, sign-up to their newsletter and follow them on social media

Credits

  • A special thanks to Esther Deeks, ProjectMAMA’s Service Coordinator for taking the time to work with us on this blog and to the mama who provided a quote.
  • Liberty, Equality, Maternity Illustration by Rosanna Morris @rosannaprints
  • ProjectMAMA logo by Zoe Power @zoepowpower
  • “Mama and Babe” illustration by Silvia Jimenez Cruz @silvicultrix