A great day

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Young Parents at New Mexico Capitol
Strong Families member Young Women United just passed a resolution in their home state of New Mexico to create a day in recognition of young parents.In our work with youth, we spend most afternoons with young women and young men who want to talk about their lives and what’s real. We usually find that they feel overwhelmed by mixed messages. Be sexy, but don’t have sex. Have sex, but don’t get pregnant. Get pregnant but don’t have an abortion. And whatever you do…don’t become a teen parent.

One of the strategies for preventing teen pregnancy has been to scapegoat young parents—some organizations run campaigns that portray them in an extremely negative light in order to discourage teens from choosing this road. The climate that young parents face is often one of overt hostility and judgment. Many young parents have shared that the hardest part of being a young parent is not the parenting, the money, or the change in their social lives. For many, the hardest part has been defending themselves and their children against stigma and judgment.

Kirbie, a young mom who visited legislators last week, received a Ms. Foundation award for her work with YWU. After the legislative visit she shared a beautiful note on her Facebook page about her experience as a young mom and the challenges she encounters. From her note:

Being a young mama is the scariest role to have, I felt like I had to PROVE that I am a fit mother. Why are young moms criticized, judged, pushed, and held back by our society?…I've had strangers tell me "Is he your only son? Good, you shouldn’t have any more." I've had less support because I was labeled an irresponsible teen mother or a "kid raising kids."

We are excited for YWU and all the young parents they are lifting up. They touched a very special chord in the hearts of their members, and also of the legislators who passed the bill unanimously. Some legislators were even in tears, taking time for long conversations with the young people who came to the capitol to advocate for the bill.

We look forward to August 25th. We know it will be a great day where young parents in New Mexico get the love, recognition and support they deserve. Our not so secret hope is that this effort spread across the states and go national. The work doesn’t stop with this victory. YWU will continue to advocate for young parents through Senate Joint Memorial 23 pushing for legislation that provides equal access to education.

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