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Hear Our Stories: Shifting Dominant Narratives About Young Moms and Sexual and Reproductive Health

Case Studies

Hear Our Stories: Shifting Dominant Narratives About Young Moms and Sexual and Reproductive Health

Emily Paulos

Despite increased attention within the public health field to the need to refrain from stigmatizing teen mothers, prevailing views continue to suggest that these young women cause a whole host of social problems. In an effort to reframe public conversations about young moms and sexuality, health, and reproductive rights, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst School of Public Health initiated the “Hear Our Stories” project, in collaboration with StoryCenter and several other MA and national organizations.

As a key partner in this Ford Foundation-funded collaboration, and with assistance from staff of WGBY Springfield, we led four digital storytelling workshops with young mothers in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Participants were provided with a safe, supportive space in which to shed light on what they go through on an every-day basis as they navigate the many forms of structural violence that impact their efforts to obtain the services and resources they need for healthy pregnancies and for raising healthy children.

The emotionally charged stories that emerged, which look at the challenges and the joys of young motherhood, are being integrated into a broad media and communications strategy designed to influence local and national institutional and public policy. The project has also coordinated a number of public video screenings, some led by storytellers themselves. Project partners have also published several interesting blog pieces and journal articles, and have developed a community discussion guide for use in presenting the stories in local settings.  View stories from this project.