Portrait of a (working) mother

01.09.18

UN Geneva - MMM is delighted to support a photo exhibition illustrating mothers' challenges and choices (or lack of it) in combining professional work and family.

The Portrait of a (working) mother project

Marina Cavazza, an Italian photographer, and Dr. Eglė Kačkutė, a Lithuanian scholar at Maynooth University in Irland, are both expatriate mothers. In 2013, they started working together on an artistic project around motherhood that would combine photographic portraiture and academic research on motherhood and gender equality. They involved 27 families in the project asking each mother to visualize her situation in that specific moment in life, and to provide an individual narrative about her private and professional lives.

Marina Cavaza (right) and Eglé Kačkutė

The photo exhibition resulting from this project puts a cultural and artistic focus on the experience of highly educated professional migrant mothers and their families who live and mother in Geneva. Each of the 27 panels combines an artistic-quality photographic portrait and a short text based on interviews. This interdisciplinary work thus explores issues of visual and narrative representations of motherhood, maternal identity, gender equality in the globalized world, and career and family life balance in the context of expatriation.

“Balancing work and family life is one of the fundamental conditions for achieving economic security and stability, career advancement and high-quality contemporary life for both men and women”.
Professor Dalia Leinartė, Lithuanian gender equality expert, Women’s Rights Defender, Chair of the CEDAW Committee, in the foreword to the forthcoming book Portrait of a (Working) Mother

The Portrait of a (working) mother exhibition is shown in the Palais des Nations in Geneva, on the margin of the 39th session of the Human Rights Council from 10 to 21 September 2018.

Photos of the exhibition (on Marina Cavazza’s website)

  Flyer of the opening event on 10 September at the Palais des Nations

Reconciling work and family: what some of these (working) mothers say

The issue of reconciling professional work with the unpaid work of caring for children and family is at the heart of MMM’s advocacy work in relation to mothers’ economic empowerment.

The stereotype of an expatriate family has it that fathers are out working and mothers happily stay at home looking after the children. But the exhibition brings to light a different image of expatriate women who often have a career and/or a professional identity to balance with motherhood. Far from their families, and the social and cultural networks of their country of origin, these women also face additional challenges compared to their settled compatriots.

The narratives in the exhibition nevertheless echo the concerns of the mothers interviewed in MMM’s 2011 Survey What matters to mothers in Europe:

  • Parenting is a relationship. People should be able to have their lives and be in relationships at the same time.” Eglé
  • I thought I was going to be a super-woman, I had seen movies about highly professional women wearing high-heels and a suit and juggling work and the children.” Satu
  • If I were asked, I would say that my children and my family are my priorities in life, but I would probably be deceiving myself a little.” Sita
  • A family is a living organism and we’re all learning how to find a new balance each day where roles can and must shift.” Laura
  • The ideal would be to reimagine parenthood and to involve men more.” Rabiaa

We fully agree on that last recommendation!

 

 

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