Out of the Shadows Shamed teen mothers

Carol Allen Storey

2017 - Ongoing

An epidemic of teen pregnancies is permeating the population in Rwanda. All unmarried, living in poverty. Vulnerable girls as young as 13 find themselves in this unwarranted circumstance. Many as a result of rape and others through ignorance of engaging in sexual activities without protection. The fathers abandon them. They bring shame to the family. These emotionally damaged adolescents have assumed the awesome responsibility of being mothers when they are still children.

‘Hope for Rwanda’, a local charity based in Rwanda, supported by the Global Fund For Children was founded to address the lack of services to support these vulnerable teen mothers. The organisation offers an integrated programme of phyco-social counselling, prenatal and parenting skills, legal assistance regarding human and children’s rights. These pregnant teens, mothers have found a refuge and support system in a culture that has deserted them. They now have a community they can depend on.

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  • Faslati was raped at the age of 15 by two men; the unintended consequence was my pregnancy. I returned home but was too frightened to tell my grandmother. I hid my pregnancy for 8 months by fear of getting thrown out.

  • Florette “I was barely dating a guy and became pregnant. How could have been so stupid! When I told him, he asked to marry me. I said a big NO, I’m not in love. I haven’t seen him since. “

  • Olive became pregnant while finishing her last year in school. She wanted to abort but couldn’t raise the fees. After the baby was born she initially felt a deep sense of loneliness, but fell into her role and learned to be responsible.

  • Antoinette named her baby Jessica Genesis because it was the beginning of her life. The father ran away as he knew he could go to jail for getting a minor pregnant. She hid from the community in fear of the shame she was bringing to her family.

  • Brian William waits patiently for his Mum in the late afternoon heat, still sleepy from a nap.

  • Nesthe, 18, is 8 months pregnant poses at the doorway of her mother’s home. Unemployment is high in this sustenance Rwandan agricultural region. Her mother works on a local farm, she can barely cover the most basic of necessities

  • Ornella’s daughter Ashimwe plays a game of hide and seek dashing in and out of their tidy small house.

  • Daniella sleeps on her mother Diane, who shares her story of how she left school when she became pregnant at 16. “I discovered he had a wife and children, he lied when he said we would marry me.”

  • The room is dank, poverty hangs in the air as Beatha, a single mother breast feeds her daughter Divine on the solitary bench.

  • Fanette,17 holds her baby Beyonce, 2-months. She is an excellent mother.The father of the child, unusually hasn’t run off and provides small money to assist in the child care. Fanette hopes that someday she will be able to have a job.

  • In her cell sized stifling room, Lucie,18 with her son Kelvin 2 tells her story of being a single unemployed mum. Lucie is now contemplating of becoming a sex worker to support her son.

  • It is late afternoon, Brian,3 snuggles up to his Mum Florence to take a snooze whilst she comforts him with a loving hand.

  • Most small village communities are a jumble of building structures housing the poverty ridden residents with steams of sewage cascading through narrow passageways. The air hangs heavy with the scent of raw excrement in the heat of the day.

  • Speciose breast feeds her daughter Solange in a dank mud clad room, devoid of amenities, shared with her siblings and two goats.

  • Angelique sobs because today her aunt threw her and her baby out, making them homeless.

  • Baby Brighton’s tiny hand is gently held by his mother Grace as she prepares to bathe him. They live in a hovel of a tiny house shared with her grandmother who daily makes her feel guilty that she is a single mother who allowed herself to be raped.

  • Neslathe breastfeeds her small daughter Lenatha. “Becoming a mother was a wake-up call, the added chores and responsibilities being a mother; the work is doubled, and exhaustion takes over.”

  • Janet with her 4 week old baby strapped to her back tends to a cooking fire for her grandmother. She rarely is given food, treated like a slave. Rags hang on her malnourished frame, her eyes are void of life.

  • Sophia and her mother sit with her baby in a mud clad poverty home, their religious devotion is reflected in an alter styled table and wall hangings. She fell pregnant when she was 15 by an older man.

  • In a poverty ridden earthen floor room, a dilapidated bicycle dominates the space where Sophia, a single mother resides with her adopted mother who is a menacing drunk. She has no option to leave because she can’t work.