Maternal Journal: Collective Power Award

| Anna Eaton

We are delighted to be involved again this year with the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance’s (CHWA) annual awards which focus on collective power (partnership and co-production), practitioner support and climate. The awards ceremony is taking place online on Friday 23rd April (get your tickets here).

We are partnering with CHWA on their Collective Power Award. This award aims to recognise an inspiring project, consortium, collective or movement of people in which meaningful partnership and co-production has improved the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities through culture and creativity.  CHWA were positively overwhelmed by the quality of applications. Each application told another story of the incredible work happening all over the country and the amazing collaborative and creative spirit of people responding to individual, local and global challenges. We loved the different interpretations of “collective power” and we were blown away by how people and organisations worked together to respond and adapt during the pandemic. 

Maternal Journal

In order to celebrate this work, we are running a blog series on each of the projects shortlisted for the Collective Power Award and we’re very excited to be starting it off with this article about Maternal Journal. Maternal Journal is a peer-led movement with over 60 groups worldwide, and a thriving online community who regularly share their work together on social media. The project introduces a range of creative and journaling techniques as a way of supporting mental health and wellbeing in pregnancy, birth and beyond. It creates a supportive environment for mothers and people who birth to connect, create and share their experiences together.

Maternal Journal helps people process the major changes they might be experiencing in pregnancy, birth and beyond. By capturing meaningful thoughts and experiences in their journal people find a positive way to process challenging and joyful moments. 

Maternal Journal is anchored in journaling as a radical feminist practice, highlighting the history and collective power of women’s diaries and journaling and ‘making circles’ from the past.

People who have taken part in the journaling groups describe it an empowering experience. They feel seen, heard and validated during new parenthood which can be an isolating time in general, let alone with the added impact of a global pandemic. 

“The mental health support was incredible. I’ve never experienced anything like it.”

“I found the chance to bond with other mothers in a safe, creative space invaluable. The pandemic has meant many feel isolated – I have a baby and haven’t seen friends since he was three months old, and the chance to discuss our feelings and then to be creative together was just so wonderful and soothing.”

“It was wonderful to have a focus each week and to feel connected to other women. It helped so much during lockdown.”

What we particularly love about Maternal Journal is their range of journaling guides, from mini ones to long ones, full of creative activities and ideas to help you journal in your own style, all created by mothers and artists. The involvement of mothers and artists runs through every aspect of Maternal Journal. Their advisory board is made up of mothers and artists with different lived experiences of motherhood such as mothers of disabled children and mothers with lived mental health experience. 

There is also a ‘Founding Mothers Group’ – a group of women who took part in the very first Maternal Journal workshops who help steer the project, all of whom have lived experience of mothering with mental health challenges. 

We asked one of the Maternal Journal creators Laura Godfrey-Isaacs some questions to learn more. Laura is an Artist, Midwife and Birth Activist. 

What has been your favourite thing about the project?

Laura: The way the project has grown and how it’s become democratised. People have really run with the group format and made it their own. It’s now a peer-led movement in a global space that uses a wide range of digital platforms and face-to-face meet-ups. 

What have you learnt along the way?

Laura: When we initially designed the project, it was for groups meeting up regularly in the real world, and it hadn’t really crossed our minds it would be so adaptable when the pandemic hit. 

We saw more and more groups registering on our site from early 2020 and individuals adapting the group format to work well online. It also got us thinking about how lots of mothers and carers might prefer this approach anyway, especially as not everyone finds it easy to get out with small children regardless of the global crisis. 

Has anything surprised you during the project?

Laura: We are constantly surprised by the amazing journaling work we see and how people connect, often on social media, through their shared experiences and interest in each other’s artwork. It’s fantastic to watch the continuous evolvement of the project. 

Want to know more?

If you’re interested in the impact of creative projects on wellbeing, nurturing connections and networks and want an example of how lived experience can shape every aspect of a project, we strongly recommended you to check out more of Maternal Journal’s story and view their beautiful online journal guides by visiting https://www.maternaljournal.org. You can also follow them on Twitter @maternaljrnl and Instagram.  

Main photo credit: Image provided by Maternal Journal showing Some of the Maternal Journal Founding Mothers

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