This Sunday—Mother’s Day—supermodel-turned-activist Christy Turlington Burns will disappear, rendering herself unreachable via phone, e-mail, and social media. And she’s encouraging other mothers to do the same.
This Mother's Day boycott is part of Turlington Burns' No Mother’s Day campaign, which encourages mothers everywhere to keep quiet on a day dedicated to them—a silence meant to speak volumes about what it would be like if mothers weren’t around. Driven by a short No Mothers Day PSA film, directed by Turlington Burns' husband, filmmaker Ed Burns, the movement hopes to bring awareness to maternal mortality rates (roughly 358,000 women die each year due to issues with pregnancy and childbirth).
Turlington Burns is no stranger to this issue. No Mother’s Day is an offshoot of Turlington Burns' own organization, Every Mother Counts, which is itself an extension of her directorial/documentary debut, a heart-wrenching film called No Woman, No Cry, screened for the first time in Chicago last month at the Gene Siskel Film Center. In the documentary, Turlington Burns and a small crew travel to four different locations—Tanzania, Bangladesh, Guatemala, and the United States—visiting with women and families who are battling largely preventable maternal health issues, whether it be poor access to proper care, social stigmas, or life-threatening complications.
The idea for the film came after Turlington Burns suffered complications during the birth of her first child, daughter Grace, now 8 (son Finn is 6). Though she and her daughter emerged healthy, she learned that a shocking number of women do not overcome issues like her own.
Since completing the film and premiering it on the OWN network around Mother’s Day last year, Turlington Burns has taken to the road, screening the film in cities across the country to raise awareness for the cause close to her heart. “Since I finished the film, it’s really just been about getting it in front of as many audiences as possible,” she says. “It’s one thing to hear the information, but oftentimes statistics alone—as shocking as they are—just don’t make that impact like seeing human faces does.”
Such passion for the issue was something that set Turlington Burns apart from other filmmakers while creating her documentary. “Our small [film] crew went into it knowing that we didn’t want to witness this,” she says. “That was the beauty of not being a traditional vérité documentarian; I want to be part of the solution to the issue.” Case in point: there is one touching scene in the film in which, seeing no safer alternative, the film crew offers to drive Janet, a mother in Tanzania, to a hospital for proper care while having her child. “We really wanted to see as best we could what [would happen] without us, but at the same time not push the boundaries, where [these women] would be put in any additional harm’s way. It was really a gut thing.”
It's that same urge to help that drives Turlington Burns' latest cause, No Mother's Day. Speaking of gut reactions, we challenge you not to hold back tears as you watch No Mother’s Day’s powerful video and No Woman, No Cry. Get more information on participating in No Mothers Day and supporting mothers worldwide on everymothercounts.org.