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Teenage Mothers in Reunion Island : A Silent Epidemic
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Teenage Mothers in Reunion Island : A Silent Epidemic
Zeyana, 16 years old, is holding her daughter and posing with her back to the camera. She is one of the residents of A.M.A.R.E. (foster care center for pregnant teens and teen mothers). She was brought from the Island of Mayotte, an oversee French department because her pregnancy was at risk and Mayotte doesn’t offer medical services proficient enough for this case. Added to her medical condition. In addition to her previous medical condition, Zeyana, had to be placed in a foster center to learn to take care of herself and her child. Reunion Island is the second department of France with the highest rate of teenage mothers, 21 February 2017, Saint Denis, Reunion Island.
Julie, 16 years old and 5 months pregnant, is on the bus to the city center with her friends from the foster care center for teenage mothers. Every week residents have permissions to go out for a few hours that are strictly regulated by the staff. Julie is pensive, distanced from her family and without much permission to go out, she is having a hard time at the center. Reunion Island is the second department of France with the highest rate of teenage mothers, 14 September 2016, Saint Denis, Reunion Island
Jennifer, 17 years old, 8 months pregnant, and Anais 14 and a hlaf years old with her two-month-old son in her arms are standing on the balcony at AMARE Center and enjoying the end of the day. With the beginning of their pregnancy and then with motherhood, teenage mothers have to face new responsibilities and organize their schedule based on their child’s needs. Their circle of friends shrinks and they have less time as regular young teenagers to socialize. Reunion Island is the second department of France with the highest rate of teenage mothers, 8 August 2016, Saint Denis, Reunion Island.
Julie is playing with her younger half-sister while her step brother is sitting against the wall at her dad’s family house. Julie’s parents have been separated for many years and have reconstituted a family on both sides. As a result of abuse and neglect Julie was placed under the care of her grandmother in the past few years and hardly sees her father. In the past decades reconstituted families became more prevalent in Reunion Island society leading families to face new challenges. 22 December 2016, Saint AndrÃ©, Reunion Island.
Jennifer is holding her newborn daughter Louna in her arms at the hospital. Louna’s foot is resting next to her mother’s tattoo “Thomas” who is Louna’s dad. In most cases, teen mothers in Reunion Island raise their children without the fathers. Either the father doesn’t want to be involved or the relationship doesn’t last after the baby’s birth. Young mothers meet new partners that will become step fathers to the children and become more present the children’s lives. 4 October 2016, Saint Denis, Reunion Island.
Jennifer is standing at the entrance of the center AMARE with her six weeks old daughter, Louna. She dressed with a traditional creole dress for the center’s Christmas Party and waiting impatiently for the staff of AMARE and guests from another organization to arrive. As the “senior” of the center Jennifer has been appointed to deliver a speech that she is been preparing with great care. Besides supporting the residents to develop a healthy pregnancy and become responsible mothers the center tries to engage all the residents in various activities to help them gain self-esteem and interest in various projects. 14 December 2016, Saint Denis, Reunion Island.
Julie 16, years old, is goofing around with her younger sister, Vanessa, 15 years old, at a family picnic. Throughout her pregnancy her relationship with her sister has been sporadic. Once her closest friend, Vanessa disapproved Julie’s desire to keep the baby, sharing her family’s opinion which was based on the fact that Julie was too young and not autonomous. Julie is now in her ninth month of pregnancy, the closer she gets to her due date the more her family is getting close to her to give her support. 15 January 2017, Saint Denis, Reunion Island.
Julie receives emotional support from her mother, Clara, at the hospital during labor. Julie and Clara’s relationship is complicated and marked by a lot of tensions. As a result of the Court's decision, Julie was unable to live with her mother for years, and was placed at her grandparent’s house. Julie has been seeking for her mother’s attention throughout her pregnancy. Towards the end of Julie’s pregnancy, Clara has been trying to be more present in her daughter’s life and to show her more support. 7 February 2017, Saint Denis, Reunion Island.
Julie, 16, is sitting in her mom’s car on the parking lot of a supermarket with her two-week-old baby daughter on her knees. She is exhausted from her first weeks as a single mother. She cumulates sleepless nights and all day care. Even though staff members at the foster care center support Julie, she is mostly dealing withher daughter by herself. At the same time, her family is putting pressure on her to go back to school. Julie is about to cry while her grandmother talks her into going back to school as soon as possible. 21 February 2017, Saint Denis, Reunion Island.
Cateleya, 18 month old, is standing in her grandmother’s backyard. 10 August 2018, Saint Denis, Reunion Island.
Julie is trying to spread cream on her daughter, Cataleya, on the terrace. Julie is now 18 years old and she has left the foster care center. She is staying with her daughter at her mom’s with her sister, Vanessa (17), and her younger half-brother (5) in a one-bedroom apartment. She passed her first year training course as a beautician with success. She has a summer job in a drug store and is looking for a place to settle down with her daughter. 3 August 2018, Saint Denis, Reunion Island.
Clara, 43 years old, Julie’s mother is working as a bus driver. She was once a teenage mother herself. She got married at 16 and got pregnant that same year. Her first husband, Julie’s dad, was violent, they separated a few years after their wedding. She is now living with a man, with whom she has a 5-years-old son. 1 September 2018, Saint Denis, Reunion Island.
Alissa, Julie’s sister is standing in her kitchen with her boyfriend and 5-month-old son. She is worried about her sister Julie and her niece Cateleya. She considers her sister irresponsible and wants to take care of her niece. She thinks that her home would be more suitable for Julie’s daughter. Alissa’s first child was born when she was also a teenager. But she consider her situation different since she lived with their grandmother and lead a more quiet life than Julie. 18 September 2018, Sainte Suzanne, Reunion Island.
Julie and Cateleya are getting ready for the day in the bathroom. Julie is upset with Cateleya who cries a lot this morning. Julie and Cateleya are now living at Julie’s friend’s house. Julie was thrown out of her mother’s apartment, and has nowhere to go with her daughter. She is now actively looking for a place to live. 18 September 2018, Saint André, Reunion Island.
Julie’s grandmother has been taking care a lot of her great-granddaughter Cateleya since her birth. At first she said she would not, because she has taken care of her daughter’s three children, and then Julie’s sister daughter. She felt too old and tired. It is common in Reunion Island families, that children with young mothers are taken care by their grandmothers. 20 September 2018, Saint Benoît, Reunion Island.
Julie is hiding under the cover while her grandmother is having a serious conversation with her. Julie has spent the whole night out and her grandmother is telling her how much she worries about her and finds her behavior irresponsible. Julie is now staying at her grandmother’s since she had to leave her friend’s house, while her daughter is staying at her sister’s Alissa. Unable to take care of her daughter, Julie and her family have decided that Cateleya would live from now on with her aunt for a year minimum.
Ania Gruca is a French documentary and portrait photographer based in New York. While her personal approach revolves primarily around identity and cultural topics, she focuses mostly on development and women's issues.
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