Every year in developing countries seven million children under the age of 18 become mothers.
To raise awareness of the issue, child rights organisation Plan International Finland has commissioned a clothing collection that the world should not need – maternity wear for 12-year-olds.
The fashion-inspired campaign was conceived by communications agency hasan & partners to highlight the shocking facts about child mothers and to drive donations to Plan International.
The collection features a set of six maternity dresses designed by one of Finland’s most respected fashion designers, Paola Suhonen. The mood for the collection, called ‘Hamptons’, is a familiar theme often seen in kids’ clothing: fringes, bright, bold colours and soft blues. The playful prints of kittens on light cotton are a stark contrast to the severity of the life child mothers live.
The collection was unveiled on August 14 in Esplanadi, a Helsinki street famed for its designer brand shops, where the clothes are displayed on child mannequins.
Two online films (75 seconds and 45 seconds), billboards, international social media and PR programme support the campaign. The clothes are modelled by a Zambian girl called Fridah who became pregnant at the age of 12. Her baby is due in September.
The campaign was shot by award-winning photographer Meeri Koutaniemi whose images brought worldwide attention to female genital mutilation.
The campaign was conceived by Anu Niemonen, senior creative at hasan & partners, who said: “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.”
In the west, women joyfully carry their unborn child, but every day 5,500 very young girls become mothers when they themselves are still children. In the worst cases, child pregnancies cause the girl to commit suicide because she doesn’t want to bring any shame to her own family.
These girls also have to stop going to school and stay home under the burden of motherhood. Fridah’s case is typical – she will miss out on a year of school and fall behind in her education. She may also likely drop out completely due to peer pressure, even though she loved learning English and wanted to become a nurse.
Eva Anttila, CX lead – marketing, fundraising & loyalty for Plan International Finland, said: “Plan International tackles tough issues such as child marriage, child labour and girls’ lack of access to education. We wanted to bring the issue of childhood pregnancy closer to the Finnish audience in a way they could relate to, which is why we chose to develop a maternity fashion collection for kids. hasan & partners’ thought provoking campaign tackles the problem in an unconventional but effective way.”
Paola Suhonen, one of Finland’s most well regarded fashion designers who created the clothes, said: “I designed a collection that I wish is not needed and that I don’t want to sell. This campaign brings together two very important issues – children’s and women’s rights. I hope that people will wake up to the circumstances in which millions of girls live in developing countries.”
Photographer of the year, Meeri Koutaniemi, added: “Our aim was to use the frame and visuality of a classical fashion spread to create these images emphasising a very dark and distressing issue. I hope the campaign will make people think about the vulnerability of children in developing countries. For many years I have witnessed the efficiency of Plan International’s work to improve the position of the girls.”