Project MAMA is a registered charity launched in March 2018 that offers a free, confidential and individual-focused support. Having spent the past few years working with asylum-seeking survivors of human trafficking, founder Fiona Mann became aware that most of the women she worked with had experienced sexual exploitation or violence, resulting in pregnancy. Women seeking asylum in the UK frequently give birth in hospital on their own, with little understanding of the maternity process in the UK and no support networks around them. Thus, Project MAMA was set up to respond to the need for women to have solidarity and support through their journey to motherhood.
We support women refugees, asylum-seekers, survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking and other displaced women. We focus on this demographic because of the extreme difficulty women can have accessing the NHS, the language barriers they are facing and the extreme social isolation they experience.
Project MAMA is a hive of midwives, activists, doulas and birth companions as part of a peer network of skills, support and solidarity for women and their children. Our ethos is to encourage independence and bolster resilience in women by providing a safe and nurturing space. We promote women’s choices, enable access to a hub of peer support and we promote an understanding of a a woman’s rights and entitlements surrounding maternity healthcare in these challenging times.
Why we need to do this
The trauma women can experience on their journey to the UK and often once they have arrived can cause many to suffer from extreme mental health issues. Additionally some women often have no family members or community around them during pregnancy, labour and the crucial weeks after birth. This can be a terrifying and lonely experience for any new mama, let alone alongside immigration pressures and stresses.
Women who are seeking asylum and have uncertain immigration status can have difficulties in accessing healthcare in the UK. As such, women from a migrant background are three times more likely to die in childbirth and four times more likely to suffer postnatal depression than other women in the UK. Their babies are more likely to be stillborn or born prematurely, to have a low birth weight, or to have birth defects.
(Source: Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2015).
Furthermore, two thirds of women refugees are the survivors of sexual assault as a direct result of forced migration, of which pregnancy can be a consequence. (Source: Reproductive Health Matters, 2015)
We think this is unacceptable and we are working reverently to ensure women have equal access to healthcare and have support when they most need it.
Project MAMA address’ these issues and bridge this gap so women will have the support they need during the maternity period. Project MAMA provides crucial antenatal, birth and postnatal support to asylum-seekers and refugees in Bristol.
Our Guiding Principles
Solidarity not Charity – We show active solidarity with marginalised migrant women in Bristol. We are person-focused and so are able to meet the diverse needs of the women we serve.
Radical nurturing Our practice is built on the fundamental belief that all mothers-to-be need compassion, support, care, and space leading up to the birth of their children, a fundamental right as a mother. It is our belief that women have the right to be supported through their pregnancy and beyond in order to harness their power and to give birth safely.
Bolstering of resilience Despite the serious challenges that these women face, they are often extremely strong and resilient. They also come from incredibly diverse cultural backgrounds which hold knowledge of valuable birthing practices. We honour their rich lived experiences, culture, and knowledge and promote this in the work we do.
Growing community Project MAMA is informed by the community it serves. Connecting women in a safe space allows for peer support and supportive friendships to thrive. It supports the building of an interdependent community where bonds are made through the shared experience of being and becoming mothers.
Who are we?
Fiona Mann – Founder & CEO
Jenny Joseph – Chair of Trustees
Dr Loubaba Mamluk – Trustee
Dr. Michal Nahman – Trustee
Amy Garrett – Trustee
Amy studied Antenatal Education with the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) and then went on to
train as a Doula and is a recognised birth doula with Doula UK. She has a background in marketing and sales for social housing projects and has completed voluntary placements for a number of Bristol based charities.
Louise Mensah – Donations Coordinator
Rebecca Vincent – Associate Trustee
Veronica – Social Media Coordinator
Gail Mann – Finance Coordinator
Wendy Cox – Policy & Specialist Needs Advisor
and counsellor. Wendy has demonstrable experience as a sexual health worker supporting people with HIV including women with substance misuse issues and women working in the sex industry. Wendy more recently coordinated a bereavement service open to anyone who had lost a baby or child. She brings a profound understanding of the needs of vulnerable women to the role.
Alison White – Mother Companion
Grace Davies – Mother Companion
Suyai Steinhauer – Mother Companion
Jay Urquart – Mother Companion
Peggy Woodward – Mother Companion
Christina – Community Hub Coordinator
Ayan – Community Hub Assistant
Domonique – Volunteer Reflective Supervisor