Too-early pregnancy is a real problem in developing countries. is why Paola Suhonen, a well-known fashion designer in Finland, teamed up with an agency called hasan & partners to raise awareness. They created a maternity clothing line for children, or young teens. Profits will be donated children’s rights organization Plan International.
Suhonen’s “Hamptons” collection of maternity wear is primarily comprised of bold colors and prints (like kittens), often appearing childlike. This isn’t a mistake–it’s actually very intentional infantilization–as a way to show that young girls are becoming pregnant too soon. It’s a somewhat bizarre way to raise awareness and to be honest, it feels ethically dubious—if provocative.
The collection was modeled by 12-year-old Fridah, a Zambian girl whose baby is due in September. It’s certainly not being sugarcoated.
hasan & partners senior creative Anu Niemonen, explained the intention behind the collection:
“Designing a maternity wear collection for young children is unnatural and disturbing, which is exactly the point we want to make. The clothes expose a shocking truth about the seven million children who become pregnant every year. This is a collection that shouldn’t exist or even be needed in the first place.”
Did you know around 7 million girls in developing countries become pregnant each year? That’s not a small problem–. Fridah explained just how much photo shoot meant to her, if it helps other girls not become pregnant:
“Getting pregnant was just one mistake and now my life is ruined. I cannot go to school or play with my friends. If the pictures will help other girls, then I am happy.”
Even in the U.S., in 2015, 229,715 babies were born to women and girls aged 15–19 years, according to the CDC. That’s a lot. The United Nations Population Fund’s report from 2013 sums the problem up perfectly, “When a girl becomes pregnant, her present and future change radically, and rarely for the better.”
It’s not just about these girls’ lives being put on hold, and changed forever, because of becoming mothers at ages where they should be developing–but it actually kills them too.
According to UNFPA, pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death for females 15 – 19 in developing countries, meaning 70,000 adolescent girls dying each year from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. The sad thing? These are preventable death. Raising awareness isn’t enough: access to birth control and sex education are crucial to ensure that reasonable family planning is accessible to everyone around the world.
Listen to Suhonen talk about the maternity line below: