by Natasha Vianna, Gloria Malone, Lisette Orellana, Jasmin Colon, Christina Martinez, Marylouise Kuti-Schubert and Consuela Greene of #NoTeenShame
For far too long, organizations such as the Candie’s Foundation have been using teen pregnancy prevention resources on strategies that shame teenage mothers and their children. In their May 2013 teen pregnancy prevention campaign, the tagline, “You should be changing the world, not diapers” solely focused on scaring teen girls from wanting to become mothers instead of providing all young people with accurate and useful information. When we launched #NoTeenShame our goal was to raise awareness regarding the unnecessary exploitation and stigmatization of teen mothers while redirecting the Candie’s Foundation to promoting positive messages around sexual health and parenthood through comprehensive sexual education.
After more than 2,000 tweets, 800 emails, closer to 50 phone calls, and a constant presence on The Candie’s Foundation’s Facebook page, we have not been able to reach or speak to Neil Cole, founder of the Candie’s Foundation, or any staff. Imagine how a group of seven young moms felt when a nonprofit organization ignored our voices and continued to bash our families and our movement in the media. But we did get a response, Neil Cole wrote a dismissive post for The Huffington Post, reacting to our constant presence. His message was to say that they were not shaming anyone and again reminding young mothers “children should not be having children.” His written piece and lack of direct response to us, sought to render us invisible, but we never accepted defeat.
While our intent was to connect with Neil Cole to create a positive campaign together, we found victory in the way teen moms are being perceived and respected. The number of organizations who have started to improve their strategic messaging campaigns has significantly increased, the conversation around teenage pregnancy and motherhood has shifted to a non-stigmatizing and non-shaming approach, and the importance of comprehensive sexual education has become evident. Teen moms are a valuable asset to society, as we are industrious, motivated women with the potential to change the world, using our choices to have our babies not as a crutch, but as a ladder to build change and empower young women and their children.
We thank you for your support and for believing in our ability to ignite the spark of change. We thank you for standing by us through a difficult issue. We thank you for believing that a group of seven young mothers are capable of changing the world.
We value the support and encouragement from Strong Families during the #NoTeenShame movement and look forward to continued collaboration. Please join us in elevating #NoTeenShame and pledging to support young parents by amplifying our message through Thunderclap: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/10401-support-young-families.
#NoTeenShame is a movement led by 7 young mothers, Natasha Vianna, Gloria Malone, Lisette Orellana, Marylouise Kuti-Schubert, Jasmin Colon, Christina Martinez, and Consuela Greene, to improve strategic messaging campaigns and conversation around young parenting to a non-stigmatizing and non-shaming approach, while highlighting the importance of comprehensive sex ed.