Painting By: Emma Scadeng

On Tuesday 17th August 2021, Sista will be launching the ‘Strong Mama’ exhibition at Alliance Francaise at 5pm. Artworks in different mediums will showcase the life of a mother, with a special focus on single mothers. The exhibition is the last activity in the ‘Strong Mama’ program, which has taken 10 single mothers based in Port Vila on a journey of reflection and healing. Implemented and designed by Sista with the support of the FRIDA FUND, Sista has been working with single mothers in a series of creative and artistic workshops that have included flower crown making, jewelry making, yoga, meditation, journaling, silk tie dying and painting.

The workshops are designed to take the single mothers on an empowerment journey and build their power within (confidence and knowledge), power with (solidarity with each other) and power to make decisions (agency).  Through these workshops, the mothers have been able to form genuine connections with each other, understand their rights, increase self-awareness, develop tools to promote positive behavior, strengthen communication skills and use arts to express themselves.

The workshops have accumulated to prepare the mothers to produce an art exhibition using different mediums to explore the challenges (and joys) of being a single mother, with the purpose of showcasing to the public the issues that single mothers face and to advocate to the duty bearers to provide more support to single-household families and to mainstream gender in policies and planning.

“Single mothers face stigma and discrimination on a daily basis. Through this program and other projects, we have found that single mothers have a big responsibility to manage a heavy load with work, children and other commitments. On top of this, they also need to deal with family members and the community shaming them for being a single mother,” says Yasmine Bjornum, Executive Director. “This art exhibition is an opportunity for the public to understand the life of a mother, particularly single mothers, and to encourage the community to have empathy and compassion, while calling on the government to integrate gender concerns into our laws and policies. We must recognize that women are primary caregivers of children, and if we want our country to develop to its fullest potential, then we must ensure our planning is inclusive and gender-sensitive.”

Sista has been working with the Vanuatu Law Reform Commission and Department of Women’s Affairs to review the Maintenance of Children Act (through the support of PPPAC RRRT), and in the future will be advocating for more services to support women, including gender-specific access to mental health services. The workshops from the ‘Strong Mama’ program have demonstrated the importance of providing spaces for women to find tools to promote positive behavior and healing.

Sista would like to thank the following people/organizations for their support in the ‘Strong Mama’ program: Groovy Banana, JoJo Vanuatu, Tehya Skye, Carole Reocreux, Retreat Seaside, Simple Creations, Exotic Flower Crowns, Katherine Bowden, Jane William, Ultimate Fitness Vanuatu, Top Signs, Alliance Francaise.