OUT OF THE SHADOWS - shamed teen mothers - PhMuseum

OUT OF THE SHADOWS - shamed teen mothers

Carol Allen Storey

2018 - Ongoing

An epidemic of teen pregnancies is permeating the population in Rwanda. Over 17,000 were pregnant in 2016. 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, nor any knowledge of the responsibility of motherhood. The fathers run away leaving these girls to cope with their pregnancy. They bring shame to the family, are isolated and abandoned. 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 existing services to support these vulnerable teen mothers. The organisation offers an integrated programme inclusive of phyco-social counselling, prenatal and parenting skills, legal assistance regarding human and children’s rights, and capacity building for economic livelihood to create a solid foundation on which they can build a happy prosperous family life.

These pregnant teens and mothers have found a refuge and support system in a culture that had abandoned them. They now have a community they can trust and depend on.

The aim of this project, is to give a voice to far too many vulnerable adolescent girls who are often condemned and shamed by their community and family. This a tragedy, that leads to despair and at times suicide. It is always the shame that destroys their spirit. Teen mothers is not an isolated problem in Rwanda but lesser known tragedy on the global stage.

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  • “As a child we lived in grinding poverty, forcing me at the age of 13 to work as a domestic. I became pregnant with a boy who also worked there. When my boss learnt of my pregnancy, she fired me. My family, out of shame threw me out forcing me to be homeless. In the beginning I slept in a local church begging for food. A good Samaritan took me in the last months of my pregnancy. As an unemployed single mum I am now contemplating becoming a sex worker to support my son because I cannot find work, my twin sister is a sex worker and she suggested I join her.”

    Lucie Izabayo, 18
    Kevin, 21 months
    4th June 2018, Rukiri, Rwanda

  • “I was dating a boy from my village less than a month, we had sex and a few months later I discovered I was pregnant. The boy disappeared. My mother was furious. I became anxious and depressed, I didn’t think I could cope being a mother, especially since I hardly knew the father. I joined Hope for Rwanda the local charity that supports young pregnant teens. Their counselling support in the early days was crucial to my now being less depressed. I never went to school. Literacy is a major problem for girls living in rural poverty ridden regions. But now through Hope for Rwanda, peer group programme I am learning to read, write and numeracy, which will help me to get a good paying job to support the family.”

    Nesthe Niyomukesha 18, 8 months pregnant
    9th June 2018
    Mwurire, Rwanda

  • “My 4 younger sisters and I became orphans a few years ago when I was 14. An older man in the neighbourhood said he would help us financially. I ended up sleeping with him and became pregnant. He promised to marry me, but he already was married with a family. He and ran away. I wanted to commit suicide, it was impossible for me to process my future, I would have to leave school and take care of all my sisters and a baby. My aunt threw us out of her house soon after Tracey was born, we became homeless. When I look for work I get propositioned, men only will hire me if I have sex. Sometimes I want to give up, but I have all those who depend on me.”

    Angelique Manirakiza, 19
    Daughter Tracy, 20 months
    6th June 2018, Gatsata, Rwanda

  • The church in Rwanda is the centre of the community for most
    inhabitants as it forms the very fibre of the moral compass of its citizens. Virtually all homes are adorned with religious Christian symbols. It is illegal in Rwanda to have an abortion. Those pregnant adolescent have no other option, as they also are in fear of their souls being marked for hell if they ‘kill’ a life through aborting, even if the unborn child is through unwarranted circumstance.

  • “As a child we lived in grinding poverty, forcing me at the age of 13 to work as a domestic. I became pregnant with a boy who also worked there. When my boss learnt of my pregnancy, she fired me. My family, out of shame threw me out forcing me to be homeless. In the beginning I slept in a local church begging for food. A good Samaritan took me in the last months of my pregnancy. As an unemployed single mum I am now contemplating becoming a sex worker to support my son because I cannot find work, my twin sister is a sex worker and she suggested I join her.”

    Lucie Izabayo, 18
    Kevin, 21 months
    4th June 2018, Rukiri, Rwanda

  • “I met my boyfriend in church, we got close and ended up making love, it was spontaneous. I missed my period and suspected I was pregnant. At the clinic they confirmed my status. I thought I only met this guy a few weeks ago and now I find myself pregnant I didn’t even know who he is, how could have been so stupid! After a few weeks when I told him, he asked me to marry him and I said a big NO as I thought it was too early. We broke up and I haven’t seen him since. I am a member of the ‘Hope for Rwanda’ programme where I have the opportunity of meeting other girls in exactly my situation, a single mother who has had to abandon their dreams. We gain strength being together and supporting each other.”

    Florette Ishimwe, 19
    Son, La vie, 2
    Mwutire, Rwanda

  • Most small village communities are a jumble of building structures housing the poverty ridden residents with steams of sewers cascading through narrow passageways.

    Rukiri, Rwanda

  • “My boyfriend and I had didn’t use a condom. We were 15 and foolish. When I was told I was pregnant, my world collapsed around me. Having a child out of wedlock would bring shame to my family. During my pregnant neighbours and friends made me feel I was a bad person. I became deeply depressed. My greatest challenge raising my daughter Judy is finding an answer when she asks me where her father is as he abandoned me as soon as he found out I was having a baby.

    Aline Tuyishimire18, Daughter Judy 2
    4th June 2018
    Kacyiru, Rwanda

  • “I dated a man a lot older, he was 32 and I was 17.
    I discovered I was pregnant and I knew he didn’t love me and was only interested in sex. I wanted to commit suicide when I learnt I was pregnant because I couldn’t see a future. When I confronted the father of the child, he said he had no interest in taking responsibility and knew I couldn’t afford the DNA test to prove his paternity”. I. always dream of being a journalist to give a voice to girls like me that have brought shame to their family and fall into depression as they feel their lives have been crushed by becoming pregnant and raising a child as a single mother.

    Sandrine Murekatete, 19
    31st May 2018, Kagugu, Rwanda

  • Tracy, Angelique’s daughter strolls to the door to greet a guest

    Angelique Manirakiza, 19
    Daughter Tracy, 20 months
    6th June 2018, Gatsata, Rwanda

  • Many homes in Rwanda’s poor communities decorate their walls with religious poster, political leaders, sports heroes and sometimes an advert featuring prominently, a happy white couple.

    Nyabisinou, Rwanda

  • “I was raped by a man from work. When I learnt I was pregnant it was a complete shock. I don’t believe in abortion, it’s a sin and therefore wasn’t an option for me. The man offered to support me, but I refuse to live with someone who had abused me. My baby has cerebral palsy which is a great challenge to look after him. My dream is to be go into politics, become a minister working to create economic opportunities for women in Rwanda.”

    Lillian Iribagia, 18
    Julien, 9 months
    1st June 2018, Nyabisinou, Rwanda

  • “I was at university and had a bright future but when I became pregnant. The father gave me money to get an abortion, instead I used the money to buy clothes for the baby because I couldn’t kill an innocent child. I lost my dream to become a stand-up comedian. Stigma and shame are my greatest challenge during my pregnancy they called me a stupid girl and now they label me a a harlot because I am a single Mum with a child born out of wedlock.”

    Theodette Niyomungeri, 19
    Allani, 18 month
    1st June 2018, Nyabisindu, Rwanda

  • “I named my baby Jessica Genesis because it was the beginning of my life. The father of my child ran away because he knew he could go to jail for getting a minor pregnant. I hid from the community, I didn’t want them to see me in that condition in fear of the shame I was bringing to my family.”

    Antoinette Umutesiwase, 19
    Jessica Genesis, 12 months
    2nd June 2018, Nyamugari, Rwanda

  • “I was finishing my last year in school and became pregnant. I was horrified, I wanted to abort, as I would be forced to leave school. My future would be dim. After I could not raise the fees for abortion, I felt my only option was to commit suicide My friend told my mother of my situation and she said; ‘Since I sinned once by getting pregnant I should not sin again’. After the baby was born I initially felt a deep sense of loneliness, but as I fell into my role I also learned to be responsible and strong.”

    31 May 2018, Kacyiru, Rwanda
    Olive Uningabire 20
    Daughter Giselle 2 years

  • “My son was born disabled, no one explained what the disability was and even today I don’t know the diagnosis. I never returned to the hospital for further tests because I couldn’t afford
    to see a specialist. He cannot stand, sit nor walk or swallow solid food. Most of his nutrition comes from my breast milk. “

    Beatrice Nyirahabimana, 19
    Messi, 3 years old
    Rukiri, Rwanda

  • “I was raped by a man in my community, he drugged me, I cannot remember anything. I was only 13. A few months later I found out I was pregnant, I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t want to have a baby I was too young, I wanted to be at school. The man totally vanished. When Fabrice was born I didn’t feel any love for him. But now I feel empathy and love. I am obsessed with the survival of my son. Being a mother has taught me responsibilities and not to be selfish.”

    Vanessa Ufitingabire, 18
    Fabrice, 4 years old
    6th June 2018, Kagugu, Rwanda

  • “I was raped at the age of 15 by two men; the unintended consequence was my pregnancy. After the rape I returned home but was too frightened to tell my grandmother. I hid my pregnancy for 8 months fooling everyone. Initially I felt nothing for this child, a loveless burden. I feel very vulnerable because at any time my grandmother can throw me out, where would I go? I have no means of support. ”

    Faslati Muhawenimana, 17
    Aime, 18 months
    3rd June 2018, Rukiri

  • “I was finishing my last year in school and became pregnant. I was horrified, I wanted to abort, as I would be forced to leave school. My future would be dim. After I could not raise the fees for abortion, I felt my only option was to commit suicide My friend told my mother of my situation and she said; ‘Since I sinned once by getting pregnant I should not sin again’. After the baby was born I initially felt a deep sense of loneliness, but as I fell into my role I also learned to be responsible and strong.”

    31 May 2018, Kacyiru, Rwanda
    Olive Uningabire 20
    Daughter Giselle 2 years


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