real life

'I get over 20 cards every year.' Jess is a mother figure to women who need her.

Most women don’t look like the mums sitting on the front of Mother’s Day cards. Today, Mamamia celebrates all kinds of mums. For more stories about the reality of motherhood, check out Mamamia’s Mother’s Day hub page. 

This post deals with the topic of abuse and might be triggering for some readers.

As a former high school teacher working in South Western Sydney for over a decade, Jessica Brown had seen firsthand how at risk some students were of falling through the cracks in the education and welfare systems.

Especially vulnerable teenage women. 

Students that had been through trauma and difficult upbringings, moving in and out of foster care families and educationally behind at school in important subjects like English and math. 

It was a formative experience for Jess, watching these young girls essentially be left to fend for themselves. And what it did was lead Jess to trying her best to make a difference via The Warrior Woman Foundation

Now working in the charity space for over 20 years, Jess became a social entrepreneur and is a previous winner of the NSW Woman of the Year.

And although Jess' work is incredible, it's still been a challenge to address the gap in the welfare system. 

Watch: Lessons from our mums. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

"As a teacher I would see these young women struggling mentally having gone through multiple traumas in their short lives," Jess said to Mamamia.

"What I wanted to do was support them through their transition to adulthood by providing them with safe and stable female mentors that would be there to guide them. I just didn't want to watch the cycle keep repeating itself. And that's how The Warrior Woman Foundation was born.

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"If students get behind in school, it tends to impact their confidence, and they're also more likely to drop out of school, which is often not great for their trajectory."

As part of her work, Jess predominantly works with very young mums who perhaps don't have the best support system around them, along with vulnerable women who are experiencing or have experienced out-of-home care or are fleeing family violence or abuse.

The aim is to help these women become resilient and independent, through financial wellbeing and emotional support. 

"Some of our 'warriors' have been refugee women, those experiencing homelessness or stuck in refuges. Basically what we do is provide each of these vulnerable young women with a female mentor - it's not only about providing them with the life skills they need, but the connection to a safe group of women," Jess explained.

"It gives me goosebumps even talking about it, when you see how much it means to these women to see that they aren't alone. All the warriors who went through our program last year left with jobs, helping them reach full independence and others were able to complete their HSC. It's about providing a bit of a cheer squad - because everyone could do with one."

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With Mother's Day here, this time of year can be challenging for so many. It's a day that can be quite isolating for some - those who may not have a mum, be in contact with their mum, have lost a mum, or want to be a mum and haven't been able to.

For this Mother's Day and every Mother's Day, Jess strives to be a mother figure for those who need one. 

"I think our understanding of Mother's Day needs to become a little more diverse. For my family personally, it's tough. My mother lost her son, my brother, in 2010 and the day reminds us that he's not here," Jess said.

"For me as well, I haven't had my own children. I would say I was very busy looking after everyone else's children, and by choice, I didn't get around to having my own. I'm in my 50s now.

"I'm not a biological mother. But you can choose someone to be your honorary mother or choose someone to fulfill that motherly role. That's why having female mentors in your life is so important."

Listen to No Filter: Layne Beachley had three mothers. Post continues after audio.


Jess' impact on the lives of lots of young women is clear every single Mother's Day - whether it's cards or texts, she receives dozens. 

"What I try to encourage the warriors that I mentor is to try and not focus on the deficit if they don't have that mother figure in their life, but to focus on women they do have in their life. The women they choose to have who uplift them and inspire them," she said.

"When I get those texts and cards, it means the world. It shows acknowledgment for the impact you have and providing guidance to someone else, and that feels special, even if it's a little bit selfish for me."

But Mother's Day isn't the only day of the year to celebrate the women in your life who love you. Why shouldn't we celebrate and appreciate the awesome female mentors we have more often? Goodness knows they deserve it.

"Our hope is to have women rally together to help young vulnerable women each and every day," Jess told Mamamia. "The ripple effect that kindness and care can have is powerful."

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To discover more about The Warrior Woman Foundation, you can visit their website here. They are also encouraging businesses to sponsor a mentor-mentee match, and for more information on this sponsorship you can click here.

If you know any young, vulnerable women in need of support or mentoring, nominate them to join the program or visit https://warriorwoman.org.au/

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

You can also call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.

The Men’s Referral Service is also available on 1300 766 491 or via online chat at www.ntv.org.au.

Image: Supplied/Mamamia/The Warrior Woman Foundation.

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