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Archive for the ‘Motherhood’ Category

A few days ago my sister told me she didn’t really like her curly hair. I stared at this little replica of me. It felt like I was looking into a mirror. Little me also didn’t like her curly hair. All the pretty girls have straight hair. I saw all the wrong things staring back at me in the mirror.

For days, I thought about the conversation her and I had. How can I create a space in which my sister and I feel happy and empowered with who we are? What things can I do, say and have that will make her feel secure in herself, both on the outside and inside? Where beauty isn’t the only focus? What do little ones need to feel at peace and in control of their future and their bodies when everything around them tells them they’re worthless?

I thought about the ways in which we sometimes don’t support the decisions those around us make. How inferior we make each other feel. How we judge one on another for the things we do or don’t do. As if there was a “normal” or “correct” way to be. As if there was a specific way to live our lives.

Here in New York I can’t walk down the street without seeing ads that say young mothers, and their families, will grow up and amount to nothing. Messages that tell us, “You’re worthless and deserve what is happening to you because you did things the “wrong way””. Messages that tell the little ones what horrible lives they will live and what horrible parents they have.

Pointless messages because no matter what decision we make, we seem to always lose and are belittled because of them. Sex is bad. Abortion is bad. Parenting at your age is bad. Using contraceptives is bad. Everything is bad. Our existence is bad. All decisions we make will be judged.

But, guess what, we’re not going anywhere.

On the other hand, I hope to work with warriors that will take matters into their own hands. Warriors that will be happy with who they are. Warriors that will be at peace with the decisions they make for themselves and their families. Warriors that will look into the mirror and not let these messages affect what they believe to be true about themselves. At least, that’s where I hope to be alongside my family and people in my community. I hope to live and create spaces in which decisions, including abortion and parenting, are respected and supported. Spaces in which my sister can feel confident in herself and understand that there’s more to life and herself than just beauty.



Spaces like that are being built. We are hosting a webinar training with 3 sessions aimed to serve young mothers. This training is open to all young mothers and are completely free. Session 1 already took place. Session 2 is happening on Nov 15 6pm EST which will talk about why it is important to organize young mothers and why young motherhood happens. Session 3 is happening on Dec 13 also at 6pm EST and it takes a closer look on what advocacy means and how you can use your experiences to push others into action. If you’re a young mother, register and let others know: http://tinyurl.com/MomELola

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When I first starting working with young mothers I found myself trying to validate my ally-ness. If anyone asked me why I was involved, or if I had children of my own, instead of simply saying “no”, I would feel the need to defend my involvement.

I would often respond with:
“No I don’t have any children, but my mother was a young mother”
or
“No but I have many friends who are young parents”

I asked myself, “as an undocumented immigrant, what do I want from allies?” Then it hit me, I can be an ally without an explanation or defending my involvement. “I’m not a racist, my friend is black” isn’t cool so why would “I don’t have children but my friend is a young mom” be considered okay? I started reminding myself that I can be an ally, just because. I can be an ally because I believe in the importance of young mother’s voices being heard without tokenizing those around me. I can be an ally because our liberations are tied together. I can be an ally because no one is free, while others are oppressed.

Even though being an ally can be tricky. We should all be willing to learn and be called out. We are allies to each other. Here are some things I’ve learned throughout my involvement with young mothers:

1. It’s so much easier to sit back and judge young families. Young mothers already face a bunch of judgement everywhere. Don’t judge. Educate yourself.

don't judge

2. Always step back and look at the bigger picture. This isn’t about you, remember?

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3. Families are different. Don’t assume every family is compiled of a mother, father and one child.

families

4. Always engage the children and think of their needs/wants.

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5. Be an ally just because. Don’t try to prove something to others or to yourself. Believing in the people you’re working with and the cause you’re working towards is sufficient.

Cow

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We were on the phone talking about the immigrant rights movement and how he could get involved. He was telling me how he values immigrants so much and believes everyone deserves a happy and safe life. He then asks about my beliefs and what I stand for.

I tell him about my involvement with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.
“Reproductive health? Like abortions?” He asks.
“That’s not the only aspect of reproductive health but yeah, abortions too.”

He becomes angry and states that I’m a horrible person for advocating for abortion access. How could I fight for immigrant rights and at the same time, aim to provide others with abortions? It’s a disappointing and a very sad aspect of my life, according to him. He didn’t stop at that but kept pushing and pushing, “So, you’re telling me, if you were to get pregnant tomorrow, you’d have an abortion?”

One side of me believes I should stay quiet since it really isn’t his business what I do or don’t do with my body. The other side of me however, didn’t want to be ashamed of the decisions I make. So I proudly state, “if I need one, yes I would.”

Abortion Mississippi

Silence.

He said something about me being a bad person, that he believes whole-heartily in the bible and that he had to go so it was best to hang up.

Click.

I sit there shocked at his eagerness to hang up on me but also amused and how the conversation had made a 180 degree turn because of what I believe in. It’s okay to advocate for the lives of immigrants, but not for the lives of women and men who need an abortion. But there’s a discussion that’s missing, the one about life going on beyond the 9 month gestation period.

It’s frustrating after a while, hearing folks discuss the value of lives and the importance of community, but only for a fetus. What happens to that life once it’s outside the body? What happens when the family cannot afford food or health services? They’re called a leech on the system. What happens when that life is LGBTQ? They’re excluded and dehumanized. When it becomes undocumented? That life is no longer considered valuable. We would rather detain and deport it. When that same life is walking home from the store we shoot and kill it for wearing a hoodie and “looking suspicious”. When it’s Muslim? We bomb them. Black and brown lives? Incarcerate them.

Don’t you dare sit there and talk to me about the value of life when our children cannot even access a decent education, housing, comprehensive sex education or contraceptives. This isn’t a black or white issue where some are against abortion and some are for it. Abortions should be made available to whomever needs it and it’s not up to us to judge those who have one. At the same time, we should be working together to create better living conditions for all so that maybe, in the future, that one abortion won’t be necessary.

I’m also fighting for lives.

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Post By Nicole Catá

Originally from Cortlandt, NY by way of Flushing, NY, Nicole Catá now studies at The George Washington University Law School and the Elliott School of International Affairs.  During her time as an undergraduate student at Columbia University, she worked from January to August 2010 as a policy and advocacy intern at the Latina Institute.  Nicole spent this summer as a legal intern at National Advocates for Pregnant Women and will work this fall as a student attorney for the International Human Rights Clinic at GW Law School.  Nicole will serve as the president of GW Law School’s chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice during the 2013-14 school year.

Birth Justice as a Matter of Reproductive Justice

With news of Prince George’s birth dominating the Internet, it may be helpful to highlight the lived realities of birthing experiences in the United States for women of color. Given that the royal birth cost $15,000, whereas the average cost of birth in the United States is $30,000, you have to wonder whether we’re getting what we pay for.  For poor, uninsured women of color in the United States, too often the answer is “no.”

Last year, Denene Millner published a piece called “Birthing While Black” that details the abysmal treatment she received at an upper Manhattan hospital while delivering her first daughter.  Despite having paid for “upgrades” to secure the birth experience she had envisioned, Millner catalogues a litany of maltreatments she experienced the moment her baby was born.  For example, she describes as follows:

Once in the private room, the nurses disappeared for nine hours! Seriously. Nine. I had no diapers. No idea how to breastfeed properly (and no bottle or milk to feed my baby if I chose to formula feed). No instructions on what to do to care for my post-birth body (was it okay to walk? Pee? Wash?). Nothing. I seriously thought I was being punished for asking (nicely) for what I’d paid for. When a nurse finally did show up, she came with a “gift bag” full of formula and coupons for… formula.

Millner’s piece highlights the injustices too often leveled against women of color on what should be the happiest days of their lives.  The notion that she was treated so poorly after having paid for hospital upgrades speaks volumes about what poor, uninsured women of color face when giving birth in many hospitals around the country.

We know that everyone deserves access to high-quality health care, that birth justice is a matter of reproductive justice, and that health and dignity are human rights.  Millner reminds us that everyone deserves to be treated like royalty during and after their birthing experiences.

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“I’ll count to 10 and you hide!”
“That’s not fair, I WAN TO COUNT!”
“I’ll count and you can count next time?”
“Ok!”
“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10! Ready or not, here I come!”

The kids ran around the conference room looking for each other, oblivious to the fact that their mom’s and dad’s were in the other room getting information and building on their skills in order to raise healthier families and better futures.

Playing hide and seek in a conference room

Playing hide and seek in a conference room

However, it wasn’t all rainbow colored ponies. As I took a small break from the conference and made my way to the bathroom, I caught a conversation between two of the guards on the floor. Both were annoyed at the children. The screaming, laughing, jumping and overall awesomeness was too much for them. Complaints were exchanged about several things. Both agreed that the work environment was being disrupted because of the presence of children (I’ll mention that it was Saturday).

Some of the young families and their supporters

Some of the young families and their supporters

Were the kids really bothering anyone? No.

They were simply being kids. How do moms and dads get work done while raising a kid? Easy. They’re super heroes.

Maybe, if you opened up your mind and watched these kids laughing and playing you wouldn’t be so quick to complain. I had a headache from all the screaming but was able to function perfectly fine. Maybe, a notice should have been put up in the hallway that there was going to be kids on the floor that day. Maybe, if event spaces and public spaces were as welcoming to families as they are to food and drinks, organizers wouldn’t have to get creative and turn offices into day cares. Unsafe spaces shouldn’t have to transform into play areas only because most spaces are dominated by patriarchy. Bringing a child to a conference or event is not wrong. And feeding your child at an event or public space is not wrong. C’mon. In a country where women exhibit breasts on almost all ads, is breastfeeding really that disgusting?

Octavia and her son Tracy

Octavia and her son Tracy

Maybe, if resources were made available to young mom organizers and supporters, spaces where families are welcome would be accessible. If everyone just stopped for a moment and opened our minds and hearts to something new. To all the haters, keep in mind that young family gatherings are not about you but about the future of the kids in front of you.

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Post By Gloria Malone

The Care Center is “an alternative education program for pregnant and parenting teens who have dropped out of high school. The Care Center seeks to “provide access to arts and culture [while] supporting struggling young families as they move toward self-sufficiency.”

 

Walking through the house was amazing, they had artwork from the teenage mothers all over the halls, positive messaging, and helpful resources from wall to wall for all their students. 

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The young women who were there for the workshop were very friendly and open but once Leydi and myself started opening up about our personal experiences as teenage mothers the room became a lot more comfortable for all of us. 

 

The workshop included a brief history of the systemic oppression all women face and how women of color have been disproportionately affected by this, a mock office visit with an elected official, and a lesson on legislative affairs.

 

We shared stories of triumph and pain while learning and teaching one another how to channel all of our stories into advocacy. 

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The real shame that surrounds teenage parents is not our lives but the fact that societal stigmas diminish our lives while simultaneously refusing to hear our powerful stories. 

 

Hearing the stories from my peers inspired me and helped remind me why we should all be proud to be who we are despite the flaws society says we have. 

 

The young mothers in the room were ready to learn more about the social constructs in place that have the ability to keep us in a certain place unless we work to change that. They put their all into learning how to speak to their audience and how to identify their audience. 

 

NLIRH is doing great work with teenage families in an effort to help them help themselves work for their communities and families. 

 

The distinction is important. 

While some organizations are more interested in “fixing a problem” with out ever listening to the person, NLIRH wants and understands they need to hear from you to know where to meet you. 

 

When you know that a person, an organization, or any other group of individuals what’s to help you help yourself in a judgment free way that makes a world of a difference. 

 

This is what NLIRH has done for me, my peers, and the fact that they asked Leydi and I to help them facilitate a workshop further proves to me that they are interested in working with teenage families and not just prescribe a one size fits all “fix.” 

 

I hope that the young moms at the care center left feeling the same way and feeling empowered to create the change they want to see. I know I left with their stories in my head and my heart.

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There’s this bill in Nevada entitled, AB 230. It would require that all school districts offer a comprehensive, age-appropriate and medically accurate sexuality education curriculum. Parents may opt their children out of this coursework without penalty.

State Senator Ruben Kihuen from Las Vegas said that in Latino homes, “it’s taboo to talk to your kids about sex. You just don’t.” But then something crazy happened! Sherman Frederick, Las Vegas Review Journal Contributor wrote:

“As easy as Nevada girls are, you see, Nevada’s Hispanic girls are really, really easy. That comes from the mouth of Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas. According to him, that’s because Hispanic parents never talk to their children about sex.”

WHAT?! Is that what the Senator REALLY said?

AB 230 would make comprehensive sex education available to students. Now, don’t freak out. Comprehensive sex education classes don’t teach kids HOW to have sex. It just means the classes are age appropriate and medically correct. Ideally, conversations about sex, our bodies and sexuality are already happening at home. Since a very young age we should be talking about good and bad touching, have a basic understanding about body parts and what to do if we don’t feel safe.

The article written by Sherman Frederick suggests that only Latinas are having sex, becoming pregnant and that it isn’t society’s problem but their parents and their culture. Are you angry yet? This is a micro aggression that sheds light on a larger problem and comes at a perfect time. May is National Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Month. Teenage pregnancy is a systemic issue, that affects all races, because yes, all races have sex. This in no way is to dehumanize teen moms. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the most badass moms ever.

Latinas do not report having sex more than white women, but are at higher risk for pregnancy because they have significantly lower rates of contraceptive use. This disparity in contraceptive use is based not on simple preference, but is closely connected to social and economic inequity. What’s the real problem? We conducted research and found some statistic that may answer this question.

No one makes the decision to become a mom at a very young age. A mixture of being undocumented or not, having little to no comprehensive sex education, not having access to contraceptives, emergency contraceptives and abortions lead to unplanned pregnancies. If there is anything that the New York Young Mom’s group has taught me is that they DID make a decision, and that was to not terminate their pregnancy; however, many have little to no choices. This decision, whether you agree with it or not, should be respected and supported. Having or not having sex doesn’t make us “easy” or “prudes”, it means we are fierce women who decide what to do with our bodies. Geez, can we get some respect?

mom__s_hands_baby__s_foots_by_theprodiqyThere is a trend in all these teenage pregnancy discussions. Often times ads, articles or discussions about teenage pregnancy target the person rather than than the issue. Teen moms are usually portrayed in racists ads that use women of color or their children against them. They’re blamed for living in poverty, for their partner leaving, for not finishing high school. ARE YOU SERIOUS? All these things existed way before they became moms. Teen parents didn’t create poverty. Parents can divorce/separate from each other at any point in their relationship. Students drop out for many reasons, instead of targeting one group of people, why not provide more resources and support for students to stay and finish high school? Yes, teenage parents CAN finish high school and college with the right support system.

How does unplanned pregnancy, sex and comprehensive sex education classes work together?

My Grandmother would melt down the barbie doll’s body before giving her over to my mom to play. She didn’t want my mom to see the lumps her breasts made under her clothes or the curve of her butt. There was no discussion about sex or body parts at all.

I had a friend awhile ago, we were both 13. She didn’t know what “having sex” and “virginity” meant. Her mother taught her that “losing your virginity” is when someone “touches your belly button”. I’m not joking. This is a true story. I only knew of the misinformation when we were watching TV and someone on the show mentioned the word virginity. She looked at me confused and asked what did touching someone’s belly button have to do with the show we were watching.

I was inappropriately touched when I was in school. I knew that what was happening wasn’t correct because these were my “private areas” and without guilt or shame I told my teacher and my mom. All hell broke loose of course. What if I hadn’t known that what was happening wasn’t correct? What if I hadn’t known that I could trust my teacher, my mom, and ask for help?

yellowMy seven year old sister recently started taking swimming lessons every Tuesday. Every Monday night my mom lists all the things she needs to remember before changing into her bathing suit the next day. “Make sure you’re alone in the bathroom stale”, “no one should be dressing you”, “If anyone follows you inside what do you do? Who do you tell?”, “If you do not feel okay, do you promise to tell me?”. She also reminds her about the ordinary things, “did you pack your goggles?”, “Don’t forget your towel”. It’s a routine now, and my sister always responds with the same “I know mom I knowwww” while she rolls her eyes and packs her things.

These are examples of how sex, sexuality and our bodies are constant topics of importance. We can’t ignore it or pretend that by not addressing it it’ll go away. They come in various situations. We need to teach our children that sexuality and sex is normal and natural. Lets be honest, regardless of race, many parents do not talk to their children about sex, sexuality, their bodies etc. We live in a world where everything is sexualized and we can’t just turn sex off. We have to address it. It’s crucial to have sex conversations from an early age. This will open the dialogue flow, not shut it down. How do we expect our kids to tell US when something is troubling THEM, but we’re unable to talk to them?

So now maybe you’re asking yourself, “what do we do?”

bottleWhile these conversations sometimes aren’t happening at home, they should be happening in school. Sex and our bodies shouldn’t be taboo. We’re naturally curious about sex and about each other even. If we create a safe environment at home and in schools for children to discuss these things, and know themselves, they’ll be able to make well thought out and informed decisions in the future. Decisions that involve – but are not limited to – touching someone who hasn’t given you permission to, saying “no”, having or not having sex. Having comprehensive sex education classes won’t push kids to have sex or in anyway encourage it. Students will be well educated and armed with all the necessary tools to make informed decisions. And why is that a bad thing? Don’t we want our children to grow up to be independent individuals who can think for themselves and have control over their bodies, and most importantly, their futures? We aim to raise warriors who will be changing the world, whether they decide to start a family or not.

The Nevada bill AB230 is taking the right steps into addressing a much bigger issue. Before writing or talking about teenage pregnancy we must educate ourselves and ask, what’s the real problem?

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By: Leydi Bautista

My experience during National Advocacy Weekend was excellent! For is the first time I was invited to something to important. It was an honor to be with so many women and men who shared their stories and fight for the same goal as me.

After the training, I wish to educate myself more about how to contact my Senators and Congress members. I also want to educate everyone on what the real needs in my community are.

Latina_Institute 117
I attended NAW without any fear and received so much information. It was so helpful because it will help me train myself to speak properly and to control my nerves.

Thank you National Latina institute for this opportunity to share with everyone. I realized that I have a lot of potential even if I am a women, young mother or student. I’m an unafraid immigrant!

Here in New York we will be having a open house for other young mothers like me, please come and get more information. Your voice matters!

FINALopenhouse


More reflections of our 2013 National Advocacy Weekend

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Yesterday we said our good-byes to a great singer-songwriter, actress, producer, entrepreneur and legend, La Diva de la Banda, La Gran Señora, Dolores Janney Rivera also known as Jenni Rivera.

Jenni wasn’t always a celebrity. Her story is one of struggle and perseverance. Rivera’s parents migrated to the United States from Mexico, just like many parents, looking for a better life. Rivera was born in California to a tight-knit family filled with musical talent. She was a great student and became pregnant at the age of 15. With the push of her counselors, she continued her education while pregnant and received her GED, graduating as valedictorian of her class. Jenni Rivera earned her college degree in business administration, proving many wrong, that young Latina mothers never make it to college. However, that wasn’t the end of it.

Rivera made her first recording in the 1990’s and was signed later on, becoming one of the few women leading in the banda and norteña music genre, usually dominated by men, selling over 15 million albums worldwide and starting many companies which sold cosmetics, perfumes, clothing and much more. While Rivera’s career took off the ground, her personal life was filled with pain.

Rivera suffered domestic violence at the hands of her first husband, but that didn’t stop her. She gathered enough strength to leave this marriage and became a spokesperson for the National Coalition against Domestic Violence in Los Angeles. Rivera’s music was a source of inspiration to many women who like her, were victims of abuse and didn’t always have the strength to leave. Her music and her story motivated many women to come forward and seek help knowing there was light at the end of the tunnel. After another failed marriage, Rivera only became more passionate and determined to provide for herself and her family, now a mother of five and an inspiration to women everywhere. Rivera was unafraid, always spoke her mind and overcame every obstacle while still having a smile on her face.

Jenni Rivera onstage during the 11th annual Latin GRAMMY Awards at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on November 11, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Jenni Rivera onstage during the 11th annual Latin GRAMMY Awards at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on November 11, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.


Her work didn’t just stop at domestic violence, Rivera joined immigrant rights activists in Arizona after the racist show-me-your-papers law known as SB1070 became a reality. Rivera performed at the Billboard Awards dressed in purple on spirit day to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community. She was a fierce advocate for equality and justice for all people. She challenged mainstream body images and beauty expectations. Her work and her legacy will live on in the hearts and souls of many.

Rivera’s life is a testament of how poderosas we really are while facing violence, racism, inequality and any other blow life has for us. Her work has shown me why it’s important to speak out when things are wrong and to continue to push for spaces where Latinas are leading. It’s important to have a space to turn to that will accept us with open arms and offer support, while being surrounded by others with shared experiences; I’m glad to have the Latina Institute.

Jenni, ayer soltamos mariposas para ti, just how you asked in one of your songs. Thank you for staying true to your roots, your fans and never forgetting where you came from. Thank you for elevating the voices of women everywhere. Thank you for setting a standard on how we deserve to be treated. You are my personal inspiration and I hope to channel your strength into my every day life. May you rest in power. Que descanses en poder.

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Leydi Bautista – young mother of two

My mother decided to have me at the age of 20 without any support from my “father” or our family. She was a young mother, living in poor conditions in Colombia, who barely made enough money to support herself, much less raise a child. Despite all this, she was able to provide for me and for my siblings as they came. However, I oftentimes imagine how different things would have been if my mother had a support system pre, during, and post pregnancy. I wonder how many more young mothers are out there without anyone to turn to or anyone who shares their experiences and can lend a shoulder to lean on. Which is why I’m so excited for the work the young mother’s group in New York is going to do.

Young mothers during their first training

The first time this group of young mothers set foot into the office they were shy and hesitant to open up about the hardships they’ve faced as young mothers. Their babies sat on our office floor, too scared to ask for snacks or even a juice box. With time, the mothers got to know each other better, they shared their fears of not becoming someone, of hating baby throw up, of deciding not to have an abortion even though they knew it would be difficult from here on after. Many gatherings that led to a briefing in Washington DC where these mothers stressed the importance of investing in them. They walked around DC with a sense of ownership; owning their stories, their experiences, their struggles, their goals, hopes and aspirations for the future that awaits them and their babies too.

Poderosa young mothers in DC

Marymar, one of the young mothers who went to DC shared her experience with us:

It was a fun experience and I would love to do more things like that. I felt motivated. I want to continue being vocal about the issues young mother’s face and to get more girls to do this. Even though there are people that don’t think about our future, we have to do it! We have to do everything we can to make sure others work with us and help us out. I want my kids to look up to me and to be proud of me. I’m doing all this so they can be happy. I want my daughter to one day say, “that’s my mother!” and that she’ll follow in my footsteps and help others. All I want to do is be somebody in life and everyone will see that I made it even though they didn’t believe I could. I will make it, that is a promise.


For these moms, the journey is not over though, it has just begun. As we continue to grow together and learn from each we hope to see real change in our community. These young moms are determined to obtain the resources they need to help their families or to create paths that are not there for them the way my mother did. From having access to child care, scholarships, food and shelter, comprehensive sex education to parent only parks, they will continue to fight for it all. But they won’t be alone.

Perlita and her baby boy

One thing is certain; they are not fighting for themselves but for their kid(s). Their kids are the reason they are able to get out of bed sometimes, why some of them are still enrolled in college even though it is so difficult to find child care. Their kids are the reason why they’re standing up to the injustices and inequalities they face every day. Because some day, things will change, and their little ones will be there to witness it and know their mothers fought for this. Without realizing it, these moms have already become someone in life. They are warriors and creators of their own destinies.

If you are also a young mom in New York and you’d like to get involved with us, connect with us here. Also, check out this video of the young mothers in DC.

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