MOM Art Annex: Exhibition & Education Center

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“I wish I were your son” — The Unspoken Message of a Daughter to Her Father [LINK]

This week I interviewed Aarthi, a mother of two kids. We started our conversation by watching an Indian commercial ‘Ariel – #ShareTheLoad,’ which is about patriarchy and gender roles. After watching the ad film Aarthi bursted with emotion — “It’s so much true! My life is full of it. In my next birth, I want to be born as a boy.” She poured her heart out. I was just listening and it wasn’t even necessary for me to probe her with questions. Her words reflected her deep emotional disturbance and distress as she spoke. She continued talking about her childhood days. She recalled her childhood memories — “My father was never happy with me. For him, his son was his world. Even now it is. I was always an extra burden to him.” She expressed how challenging it was for her being a girl and an average performer in academics amidst her family of well-qualified doctors. She felt her thoughts were not heard — “He payed no attention to what I said even for a single moment. I was never allowed to express myself. If I did, I was silenced.”

Girls are expected to be exceptionally obedient. Obedience is used in exchange for love and care from parents. Aarthi spoke about how her father’s views demotivated her — “l was always a bit doubtful of myself. I thought that I was not good enough for anything.” I could see from her eyes the impact it made in her life. In patriarchy, a woman’s life is defined through constructed ideas, concepts, and myths denying her even basic rights, thought and expression. Her conscious and subconscious minds are conditioned to see the world around only in the way the society would like her to see.

Aarthi expressed her state of confusion on ways to support her daughter in not accepting those same limitations she had — “The only thing I am good at is being a mother—I think.” At the same time, she also expressed how difficult it is to be disloyal to her elders and consequently, the patriarch within herself. “I am not able to figure out what to answer to tell my daughter when she has questions about our cultural practices; like not to pray when having menstrual cycle or not to wear short dress, not to sit in front of men. I don’t have real answers. I still do it without having reasons. I can’t help myself having strong opinions about it.”

Throughout our conversation Aarthi kept talking a lot her relationship with her father. “Right after my marriage, my father gave all my certificates to my in-laws and said I am their property now.” Aarthi expressed her anger in the way she was treated, and her helplessness about never questioning this. It was then I realized how we rarely talk about the way in which fatherhood, particularly in terms of a father-daughter relationship — how this relationship is in many represents a patriarchal struggle. She expressed how her family ascribes to the often “father knows the best” model of parenting even though her mother is a successful doctor. Talking about her financial security, Aarthi with humor stated — “According to my parents and in-laws, this is my husband’s home since I am not working, and I don’t belong to my parents home because I am married. So, I suppose I am almost homeless.”

While talking about her mother Aarthi told — “she wanted me to be everything that she was not— a stay-at-home mom; cook, take care of family and relatives, and I tuned myself to that idea.” Sometimes, a daughter’s sympathy for mother’s plight makes her see her mother’s pain as her own. This sympathy directly prevents her ability to flourish in her own life. Thus, in this way, the mother/daughter bond is forged in an environment that keeps both stuck. Yet Aarthi is a woman of clarity and courage. She is all set to move forward with purpose and determination. “I am going to chase my dream, learn something. and help others” says Aarthi.

Women are given the crown of being the ‘ruler’ at home, which has a very functional basis. They are often captivated by the patriarchal system that sets imaginary limits on their dreams. Patriarchal power subjugates women in a multitude of ways (through force, customs, tradition, language, and laws). This system of power has permeated everything around us. Aarthi’s life experiences and the hurdles she has faced are just samples of traditional patriarchy. The world around us is changing, possibly making space for women. But the question — ‘Are families in the traditional societies open to accommodate these changing gender roles?’ still remains. With women stepping out to chase their dreams and rewriting their experiences, patriarchy is a losing battle today!

About the author: Pavithra Viswanath

Pavithra is pursuing Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University, with a specialization in Maternal Mental Health. She is passionate about understanding critical issues within social justice movements for women, and its relationship to the modern society. She is always drawn to the narratives and experiences of women related to these issues. She believes that there is pressing need to explore the status of a woman as a mother from various dimensions such as economic status, religion, culture, and society pressure in developing countries like India. She is also in the process of completing her ‘Sexuality Women and Gender certification’. During this fall she will be interning as a Sexual assault advocate at SAKHI for South Asian Women, New York. In her free time, Pavithra enjoys cuddling with her 3-year-old daughter, reading her favorite Tamil literature or listening to music. (Keep reading below: Pavithra’s essay Modern Day Patriarchy: Experiences of Indian Mothers).

Read Pavithra Viswanath’s previous postings here #1 [LINK], #2 [LINK}. Pavithra is a digital media intern at M.O.M.

The art work is inspired by Warli paintings of India.

The art work is inspired by Warli paintings of India.

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MAMA Issue n. 18 with Alex March – Exploring Womanhood [Link]

Artist: Alex March

My work changed focus after the birth of my daughter nearly two years ago, these works are all recent and deal with my concerns about womanhood.

“I am a London based artist originally from the North of England working with drawing, photography, painting and film to produce works which explore memory, representation and identity. Laborious analogue and hand techniques are combined with digital technology to explore the object/image relationships of domestic archives and ephemera.”

Recent works have explored nostalgia and romance as vehicles for interrogating feminine tropes. A current obsession with Hollywood’s golden age was provoked by the process of making my short film Torture The Women (The China Cupid) 2013/14, composed of a series of scenes taken from Hollywood screen tests for Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca. These scenes are digitally re-drawn and re-animated, the text edited and spliced to explore the cultural and literary manipulations of woman as romantic object. The phrase ‘torture the women’ was used by Hitchcock when asked for his advice on how to make a thrilling movie; the film seeks to take and yet subvert his advice, using repetition and digital manipulation to isolate the actress and draw attention to the peculiarities of the script and by extension Du Maurier’s novel and the whole genre.

IMAGE: ‘Bonne fête Basket Case’ postcard series, 2015, collage & gouache on postcard
Video Link: http://alexmarchartist.tumblr.com/post/114483500370/a-short-clip-from-torture-the-women

mama issue 18

Artist’s biography

Alex March is a London based artist originally from the North of England working with drawing, film, photography and painting to produce works which explore memory, representation and identity. March uses processes of editing, obscuring or physically removing areas of detail. This draws attention to the audience’ ability to empathise with the clichéd impulse to relive remembered moments and embrace notions of identity derived from personal objects, particularly photography. Laborious analogue and hand techniques are combined with digital technology to explore the object/image relationships of domestic archives, re-valuing personal items of ‘junk’ from the past to the status of artwork.

She is a founder member and director of ArtLacuna Space, an artist-led studio, project and gallery space in Clapham Junction, London. Open since May 2013, the space has hosted screenings, a mini-film festival,group exhibitions, talks, performances, experimental art projects, artist solo projects, workshops and much more. ArtLacuna has also devised a publication series, an online arts research platform and is home to nine working artists.

She graduated from Wimbledon College of Art in 2011 with a Masters in Fine Art. She featured in the Catlin Guide 2012, a guide to the 40 most promising UK graduates. She was shortlisted for the Jealous Graduate Print Prize 2011 and the Future Map 11 Prize. Previously she gained her BA in Visual Arts from the University of Buckinghamshire and studied Theatre Design at Wimbledon College of Art.

MAMA 18

See issue n. 18 online with Alex March at ProCreate Project [LINK]: http://www.procreateproject.com/m-a-m-a-issue-n-18-alex-march/

The Museum of Motherhood, the ProCreate Project, the Mom Egg Review, and the Mother Magazine are pleased to announce the launch of a bi-monthly international exchange of ideas and art. M.A.M.A. will celebrate the notion of being “pregnant with ideas” in new ways. This scholarly discourse intersects with the artistic to explore the wonder and the challenges of motherhood. Using words and art to connect new pathways between the creative, the academic, the para-academic, the digital, and the real, as well as the everyday: wherever you live, work, and play, the Art of Motherhood is made manifest. Download the Press Release here or read aboutupdated initiatives. #JoinMAMA  @ProcreateProj  @MOMmuseum @TheMomEgg @TheMotherMag

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A Magnificent Move ~ Featuring Mother The Job [CLICK]

As I settle in the beautiful city of St. Petersburg, I can’t help but look around in wonder? After living and working in Manhattan (and nearby Hastings On Hudson) for the last 37 years, Florida is a BIG change! I’ve only been here for a few weeks, but two of my children graduated from Eckerd College so I am fairly savvy to the area.

There are a plethora of choices when it comes to picking a lifestyle here. I have met people who live on Beach Drive in the heart of downtown St Petersburg; friends who make their homes within a few hundred yards of the Gulf of Mexico, and some acquaintances who experience the desperation of having no place at all to call home.

I ask myself, what am I doing here? What is my justification for picking this spot? What do I hope to accomplish? While some of my peers are taking a much-needed sabbatical, and many of my colleagues (who are just a few years ahead of me) are thinking about retirement, I have chosen to create a live/work situation across the street from St. Petersburg High School in the Historic Kenwood Arts District of downtown St. Pete. Most recently, Kenwood won first place in the “Physical Revitalization-Single Neighborhood LINK.”  (continue reading below slide show)….

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This decision honors a commitment made after years of great personal adversity. Bed-ridden from SLE and renal complications in my late thirties, into my mid-forties, I had a lot of time to think about my life– and life in general. Although I had been amply blessed and was grateful for much of what I received in terms of the health of my children and financial well-being, I began to realize that I had not been living up to my potential. I received a very clear spiritual message. Illness was the universe’s way of making me tune into a much larger mission.

This new thirst for knowledge and longing for empowerment led me towards a feminist sociological investigation into the arts, history, and science of motherhood and mothering. From the ridiculous to the sublime I screamed, sang, and shouted from the stage with my band Housewives On Prozac. Slowly, a vision for mothers in the visual and performing arts crystallized. (You can read more about this at Mutha Magazine. LINK is HERE).

Now, sixteen years later (and twenty-seven years after my first child), I am bringing the latest incarnation of the Museum of Motherhood to 538 28th St. N. St. Petersburg, Florida 33713. The Museum has popped up in Dobbs Ferry, NY (2003-2005), 401 E. 84th St. NYC (2011-2014), and now: here. The aim of this newest space is to forge community connections while highlighting exhibitions about mothers, fathers, and families. I am so very thrilled that Alexia Nye Jackson has agreed to share her fantastic work titled “Mother The Job,” an arts-based, economic exploration of motherhood in the U.S.A.

Also included are the ProCreate Project Archive and assorted fine art by Anna Rose Bain, Helen Knowles, Vee Malnar, Ronni Komarow, Noa Shay, Norman Gardner, and others. The Museum will open its doors to the public beginning September 2016. Hours will be Thursday & Friday 11-6pm and Saturday 1-4, by appointment only for tours, talks, films, and special activities. Visitors may access our extensive collection of books in the Andrea O’Reilly Library. Call 207.504.3001 (877.711.6667).

We will also launch three new initiatives in addition to Mother Studies courses online, the JourMS (Journal of Mother Studies), and the Annual Academic M.O.M. Conference each May in NYC. Those additions include the “I ❤ M.O.M. Conference” in February; featuring Arts, Academics, and Inspiration, and “A Night At The Museum” initiative on Air BnB, whereby guests will be able to spend a night at the Museum, and by summer 2017 we will offer non-profit residencies for writers, artists, and scholars in the area of mother studies.

As the Museum’s founder and director, I am modeling my commitment to this current exhibition space after Eleanor Morse (among others). Eleanor helped to co-found the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg circa 1982 after her (and her husbands’) personal collection of Dali paintings spawned what is now arguably one of the centerpieces of St. Petersburg’s cultural landscape. Let the good work continue. ~ M. Joy Rose (website)

**Read more about my commitment to the Tampa Bay area: Feminism, Football, and Family [Article LINK]

MONTHLY NEWSLETTER

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This Year For Mothers’ Day – Buy a Book, Attend a Conference or Gallery, Share Knowledge

Mothers’ Day Week 2016

2016 INDUCTIONS to the Motherhood Hall of Fame; Honor the Call of the Midwife – Join us!

Thursday, May 5 – Motherhood Hall of Fame; Columbia Teacher’s College 7:30-9PM (Free). 525 West 120th Street Milbank Chapel, NYC.

Join us for drinks before at 7PM. RSVP Pleasehttps://mommuseum.org/motherhood-hall-of-fame/

Performances, story-telling, and induction ceremony with co-sponsors:

CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR HONOREES

Ruth Lubic (ED.D. ‘79, M.A. ‘61, B.S. ‘59)

Kimm Sun, is a Certified Nurse Midwife, Nurse Practitioner

MHOF_Header_2016

12th Annual M.O.M. Academic Conference

THEORIZING MOTHERHOOD IN THE ACADEMY

***M.O.M. Conference Panelists and Presenters – See Schedule. Each time slot is 20 minutes (unless I have written to tell you differently)***

Friday, May 6th MORNING OPENING KEYNOTE: Laura Tropp specializes in media and politics and representations of pregnancy, motherhood, and families in popular culture.

Saturday, May 7th MORNING OPENING KEYNOTE: Kimberly Seals Allers whose 5th book The Big Let Down will be published this summer. Kimberly is an award-winning journalist, author and a nationally recognized media commentator, speaker, consultant and advocate for infant health.

MORE at M.O.M./ FULL SCHEDULE

FACILITIES

We will be meeting in the Alumni Room, which is in the lower portion of the library. Look for signs, or take the elevator from the O’Malley Library.

TECH SUPPORT

There is a power point projector, computer, speaker, and screen onsite. Bring your laptop or a zip drive, or post your material in the cloud and you will be able to present using the equipment at our location. There is some limited space for brochures, art, and books as well. Feel free to share your passions.

BAGEL & COFFEE BREAKFAST WILL BE PROVIDED EACH DAY

SOCIAL MEDIA 

Do you have a twitter handle or a Facebook page? Let’s connect!!

  1. @MOMmuseum
  2. https://www.facebook.com/MOMmuseum/

CONFERENCE LOCATION

May 6-7 MOM Conference at Manhattan College, 4513 Manhattan College Parkway, Bronx, NY 10471 (Schedule TBD) – We will updating the schedule in the next few weeks.

TRANSPORTATION

New York City has two major airports: JFK and LaGuardia.

Public transportation is available from both via train, and cab.

The train from JFK is rather straightforward and costs about $7.50. I would encourage you not to be fearful about taking this option if budget is a concern. There are people at the airport who can direct you, and I’ve done this many times. Here is a link to the NYC Subway Map: http://web.mta.info/nyct/maps/subwaymap.pdf

PANELS, CULTURE, and SPECIAL GATHERINGS

New York City is an amazing place. Surely you will want to do a little exploring. We also plan on organizing a few special panels, roundtable discussions, and speakers for you, but will make sure there is time in the evenings to step out, either with conference goers or on your own.

GETTING AROUND

Here is a subway map of Manhattan.

FYI, the subway that best serves Manhattan College is the #1 or #6 train on the West SideLink to more info and directions to MC.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions. We will continue to update the Conference tab.

  • ALSO PLEASE SEE – DEMETER PRESS – NEW RELEASE – NEW MATERNALISMSORDER NOW
  • New_Maternalisms

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A Gaggle, A Chorus, or a Consternation of Mothers

Thoughts in blog-form by Rosalind Howell

There is a  picture book that’s currently very popular with my three young children, called The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett. In it a duck finds an egg to hatch having apparently failed to lay her own.This is observed closely by a group of various birds (including a parrot, goose and flamingo) who wind around each other, clutching their own ‘normal eggs’ and look on suspiciously as Duck’s out-sized and green-spotted egg appears not to want to hatch.

Eventually Duck’s egg cracks open and a huge baby crocodile emerges with a “snap!”  its already sharp teeth lunge at the watching gaggle of judgemental bird parents before contentedly wandering off behind Duck with a gentle call of ‘mama!’. With each reading all of us gleefully anticipate that ‘snap!’ as the gaggle of bad/bird mothers get their comeuppance.

Also this month I went to see Rachel Cusk‘s updated version of Euripides greek myth, Medea, which played at the Almeida theatre in London. It tells the story of a woman (a mother of two), whose rage, at the betrayal of her husband and the cruel and rejecting society she is abandoned to has terrible, fatal consequences. In this contemporary version Cusk reconfigures the traditional greek chorus as a gaggle of hostile and judging fellow mums. As in the traditional greek chorus these woman dress the same, speak as one and move in and out of each other. They carry identical doll babies and create a kind of multi headed single organism that judges, dismisses, mocks and fears Medea, refusing to identify with her or empathize with her pain.

At times it has been my experience of becoming a mother that anticipation at feeling part of a cozy tribe of motherhood coexisted with a fear of gang culture. The possibility of togetherness, connection and support is at times overshadowed by a fear of difference, intolerance and rejection.  In discussions with other mothers we all recognised the stereotypical image of the impenetrable gang of other mothers at the school gate. All of us identified at points with being ‘Duck’ or ‘Medea’, perceiving ourselves the object of hostility from the group. We were less inclined though to identify with being part of a group ourselves that disavowed difference and kept individual mothers and their different experiences firmly out.

Deborah LevyIn her memoir, Things I Don’t Want to Know, writer Deborah Levy paints a picture of mums at a school gate divided into ‘us’ and ‘them’. The difference being the ‘them’ give their children nicer things to eat, like sweets and chocolate. It portrays vividly the conflicted and confused experience of mothers who can feel envy, fear and suspicion towards other mothers as well as themselves, all at the same time. Ins Freud’s theory of the Narcissism of Minor Differences he postulates that those groups with the most in common often become the most fiercely apposed. Small differences became inflated so connection becomes impossible. According to this theory it is not the differences between us we can’t stand but the sameness, which this fear and dislike of difference only masks.

In Cusks’ Medea it is the chorus of mothers we are supposed to despise. Their identical clothes and mannerisms, their shared views uttered mindlessly, which delighted the audience, become synonymous with a kind of collective stupidity and fear mongering. When groups of mothers are perceived as gang-like by other individual mothers a very real sense of violent aggression can be felt. Yet I was struck by how surprisingly life-like were the doll babies that the chorus held. Something in the way they held, rocked, lay down, even briefly shook their babies was recognisably real. Yet identifying with them felt like the real taboo.The ease with which a negative image of a group of mothers such as the chorus in Medea can be received shows how culturally acceptable it is to hate mothers, even if you are one. In other words, there’s nothing worse than being just another mum.

The collective noun for a group of mothers is a consternation. The word suggests an experience of impending danger, and the meaning, a sudden feeling of anxiety when something unexpected and unpleasant happens. Whilst arguably there are likely to be many moments that the experience of being a mother or mothering makes a woman feel consternation herself, this word as the collective noun, tells us much about how mothers are perceived by individuals and society at large.

The psychotherapist Rozsika Parker has made much of the interaction between a mother’s internal processes and the pressures that exact on her from society. Ubiquitous but conflicting cultural ideals of motherhood contribute to women colluding with each other in a denial of maternal ambivalence. She defines maternal ambivalence as the coexistence of loving and aggressive feelings within the mother towards her child. Parker believes that manageable maternal ambivalence can lead to creative development in both mother and child. But because society finds maternal ambivalence so intolerable an idea, mothers are still under enormous pressure to live up to cultural ideals of motherhood which deny their difficult feelings towards their children and their role. In what Parker calls ‘looking for absolution’ from other mothers, as mothers we can then attribute all those difficult, unbearable feelings to some other individual or group.

It is inevitable then, that the differences and conflicts within us between our ideal mother self and the real life flesh and blood one must somehow be tolerated. Likewise must our differences as mothers. Women, with young children particularly, are compelled to negotiate a complex web of relationships often involving other mothers, that comes from the practical and emotional demands of raising children. As group analyst Farhad Dalal says, groups come together for practical reasons and to do with context, therefore difference, as well as similarity will always be present.

To adapt a phrase by Dalal, groups of mothers in our culture get a bad press, and so does imitation. Strong cultural pressure is exerted on mothers to be independent, unique individuals as well as, paradoxically,  to maintain the accepted cultural collective face of the perfect mother. Our society pits mother against mother in fear and competition. And a fear of difference can hide a something more tricky; our similarities, and our shared humanity. This becomes all the more obscured at a time of heightened widespread political fear of the other.

At the end of the Odd Egg, Duck walks off defiantly, followed by crocodile. They have ‘won’, they have each other. It seems to suggest they can leave behind the unwelcoming, imperfect group to a fantasy of mother-child symbiosis where difference and conflict need not be acknowledged or born. It is a triumph of individualism as well as a fantasy of mother/baby union. Yet as the story ends we can only imagine what might be the very real challenges of a crocodile actually living with a duck.

Dalal, F. Taking the group seriously. (1998) Jessica Kingsley.

Figlio, K .The Dread of Sameness: Social Hatred and Freud’s ‘Narcissism of Minor Differences’

https://www.essex.ac.uk/cps/documents/Dread-of-sameness.pdf

Levy, D. Things I don’t want to know. (2014) Penguin.

Parker, R. Torn in Two: The Experience of Maternal Ambivalence, (2002) Virago

From Mumsnet to Medea – Discussion at Almeida Theatre (Oct 2015)

www.thefreedictionary.com

 

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Reflections on Introduction to Mother Studies Course – by Zairunisha Jnu

Zairunisha photoAbout a month ago, I posted my reflections on the summer intensive course taught through the Museum of Motherhood. I invited my comrade, Zairunisha Jnu, to do the same and offer her impressions from Introduction to Mother Studies.  Zairunisha is a PhD. candidate in the Centre for Philosophy, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.  She is presently working on her research project entitled ” Rhetorics of Choice and Coercion on Motherhood: Revisiting Bioethical Debates from Feminists Perspectives.”

Here is what she said:

I am a student of philosophy and my research area focuses on issues in the field of bioethics with special reference to the impact of new reproductive technologies on motherhood.  During my studies on my research project, I hadn’t studied motherhood in such a broader perspective before doing the Mother Studies course offered by the Museum of Motherhood. The Introduction to Mother Studies course provided a panoptic platform for mothers, students, scholars, professional, etc. where the participants are encouraged and motivated to critically examine, analyse, and correlate problems faced by mothers in their day to day lives from various perspectives, especially from a sociological lens within historical, economic, political and sociological frameworks. Also sometimes we were asked to try to find out solutions to the problems and challenges.  

For me this course was very enlightening in the field of motherhood. I have a knowledge of mother-related problems, issues not only from an American perspective, but an Indian perspective too. Different tools and methods of teaching for instance video lectures, mind blowing movies, news reports, reading materials, writing assignments (hardest part of the course 🙂 etc. made a great combination of practical and theoretical knowledge which encouraged and forced me to rethink about the situation of mothers in the society and question on the pre-established image of women and the role they perform in the family.

As I mentioned above that I am a philosophy student, just familiar with the name of some feminist thinkers such as Adrienne Rich, Sara Ruddick, Patricia Hill Collins, Barbara Katz Rothman and a few others. I have come to learn more about their work and contributions through the Mother Studies course importantly on mother, mothering and motherhood.

In the book Of Women Born, the issues of sexuality, childbirth, child care, and women’s health, Adrienne Rich questions and critiques male-centric cultures and practices. The articleUndivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice” by Jael Silliman, Marlene Gerber Fried and others, focuses on women’s awareness in the field of reproductive rights and gender inequality. Additionally, Barbara Katz Rothman’s book, Recreating Motherhood shows the perpetuating condition and coercion over ignorant women still continuing in modern technological time and world. It is so hard for competent women to save themselves from the milieu of the society and perform their choices as a free being where mothering is always considered a personal activity and unconsciously become political matter. The crude reality is, only society will decide about you, being a woman  how threatening it is! Nevertheless in this scenario, Mother Studies offers a positive approach and hope for action.  

In this manner, I agree with Jenny’s view that the emerging Mother Studies course is a revolutionary step in the way of making the personal political and academic. It was such a wonderful and unique experience for me working together throughout the coursework with our teacher and classmate/friend. I am keenly looking forward to the possibility of a workshop regarding Mother Studies where we can meet again and explore more prospects and opportunities for our Mother Studies work.   

Written by: Zairunisha Jnu
Arranged by: Jenny Nigro, MoM Online Intern