“Hear Our Stories” project gives voice to young Latina mothers’ experiences

May 14, 2014

Aline Gubrium (center, rear) with the "Hear Our Stories" project team and participants

Young parents recently presented their own first-person video narratives combining recorded voice, still and moving images, music and other sounds to share and communicate their experiences as teen mothers as part of “Hear Our Stories,” a project led by Aline Gubrium, Associate Professor of Community Health Education, and Elizabeth Krause, Professor of Anthropology, of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The young women shared these digital stories at a public event held in the Visitor’s Center at Heritage State Park in Holyoke, MA, on May 7th.

“The young women prepared compelling video stories of their lives to share with their peers, the media and the public. They presented their stories in ways very rarely seen before,” says Gubrium. Holyoke has the highest birth rate in Massachusetts to young women ages 15 to 19. She adds, “Although there are many young parents in the community, they seldom have an opportunity to share their experiences with the public.”

“Hear Our Stories” focuses on Latina women whose families are shifting or uprooted, for example, or who may have gone through the foster care system.

Krause says, “We hear complicated stories, not all about hardship and the harsh realities of being young mothers, but about rich experiences that observers might not expect. The women tell more complicated stories than could come out in the mass media, for sure.”

The young women use new media to reveal how they sense and negotiate sexual health disparities, in particular, the researchers say. “We hope to change the rather static conversation on young motherhood and sexuality, health and rights across generations by putting a human face on policy,” Gubrium points out.

The researchers joined the Community Adolescent Resources and Education (CARE) Center of Holyoke, WGBY Television, and others in helping the young parents develop the stories. “Hear Our Stories: Diasporic Youth for Sexual Rights and Justice,” is supported by a two-year, $500,000 grant from the Ford Foundation’s Sexuality Research Initiative to Gubrium and Krause.

WGBY Television featured the project on a recent episode of the program “Connecting Point,” which can be viewed below. Additional coverage can be found on the WAMC website and on the Inside UMass website.