Pregnant, alone and abandoned: Young mothers speak

Pregnant woman
Pregnant woman

Many girls and young women find themselves abandoned during pregnancy and after birth by their partners, left to raise their children alone. Adjusting to this strange new reality is often very difficult. Mmegi Correspondent, NNASARETHA KGAMANYANE speaks to a few young mothers

Being a young mother can be challenging. Raising a child is a challenging experience more especially for first-time young mothers. It is even more challenging for a single mother. Each day young, single mothers in society face financial struggles, lack of support, emotional battles and more.

Available statistics show the burden young women and girls are bearing in the country. According to a recent Women and Girls UNFPA Botswana report, the country’s teenage pregnancy rate is estimated at 10% of the total population of teenage girls, while HIV prevalence of girls aged between 15 to 29 years is over 20%.

At least 22% of young women aged between 25 and 29 years of age are unemployed and in addition, 10.7% of women in the same age group are living in poverty, compared to nine percent of men.

Some young women in these situations are willing to talk about their experiences. However, they asked Mmegi not to use their surnames in order to protect them from family backlash. Laone* fell pregnant when she was just 14-years-old after her cousin raped her. The matter, like in many families in Botswana, was swept under the carpet. It was decided that it be “handled within the family”.

The matter was not reported to the police, therefore, denying Laone of the medical assistance offered to rape victims. The young teenager found herself with an unwanted pregnancy, the result of a violent incident.

Laone, who was still a child herself, found herself giving birth at a tender age and grew up before her time. Being a mother when she was a child herself became the biggest challenge she had ever faced.

“My family was supportive. After birth, they took my baby and took him in as their own.

“However, even though they gave me all the support, I felt incomplete. “I was not mentally ready to be a mother and what made things hard for me is that the community judged and crucified me for falling pregnant at such a young age. “My friends’ parents forbade their children from playing with me since I was now a ‘woman’.

“Every time parents scolded their children, they would point me out as a bad example to their children.

“They said I was going to teach their children my rebellious acts,” she sadly narrated.

As she grew up, Laone found it hard to come to terms with her ordeal and ended up depressed as she was denied a chance to be a child and play with her peers or even experience normal teenagehood. She developed an intense hatred for the cousin that raped her and men in general.

Fortunately, Laone met Kaene Disepe, the founder of Inspired Horizons Association. Disepe had come up with an initiative, Young Mothers Support Network which gives young mothers like Laone counselling, prepares them to accept being mothers and teaches them to be mothers as well as educating them on how to divide their time between motherhood, work or school.

“This NGO (non-governmental organisation) also gives the children toiletry and groceries.

“Inspired Horizons Association through Young Mothers Support Network has also partnered with Kalafhi Medical Centre where our children are given free medical aid where they can get health services for free.

“Since I joined this organisation I have accepted life as it is and I’m thankful for their support because it took me long to date because I resented men.

“I have now accepted my ordeal. I love my baby and I’m moving on with my life,” Laone said.

Even though Gomolemo* had her son when she was 24-years-old, which was older being that she was out of her teens, she explained that being a young mother was not a walk in the park. When her son was only six months old, the father left them after denying the paternity of Gomolemo’s child saying that he “could not support a child that was not” his. That left the young mother devastated. Her dreams of having a perfect family crashed before her eyes.

“I just started working when my baby daddy left us,” Gomolemo said.

“I was devastated. I didn’t know how I was going to take care of my son alone. I was not even ready to be a mother then.

“I hated him but the Young Mothers Support Network helped me heal.

“I have forgiven him and moved on with my life. I am doing a good job at taking care of my son.” Inspired Horizon Association health and advocacy officer, Thatayaone Makabanyana said the NGO was established after a realisation that adolescent girls and young women’s voices were silent having less representation in leadership even though they faced challenges such as social exclusion, economic constraints and sexual violence. She said many young mothers, more especially those in marginalised rural areas, were overlooked.

“Our objectives include gathering relevant information and stories from young mothers about their lived experiences to inform age-tailored, gender-responsive policies and youth-friendly services,” Makabanyana explained. “We also aim to co-create safe spaces for meaningful participation by adolescent girls and young women in national development agenda settings and advocacy through strengthened referral and multi-sectoral linkages.” She added that the organisation intends to promote social and behavioural change communication addressing cultural and gender norms including gender-based violence, intergenerational and transactional sex and other risky behaviours. She also said they aim to promote accessibility of relevant 21st-century skills development and economic empowerment programmes for adolescent girls and young women. “The Young Mothers Support Programme supports pregnant women and girls or adolescent mothers and young women between 15 and 25 years.

“Inspired Horizons partners with different stakeholders to help these young mothers and their children.”

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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