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Supporting young mothers in Nyamasheke District to build new lives

While many communities joined the International Commemoration of the Day of the African Child in June 2020, with a commitment to protect children from violence, Francine Uwamahoro 17, from Nyamasheke District in the North- West of Rwanda, stayed home, hiding from the villagers because she was pregnant.

Beside the general pervasive atmosphere, she was also enduring the harsh reality of becoming a mother at 17 years. When her parents learned that she was pregnant, they almost banished her from home, yet the man responsible for the pregnancy, had fled their village for the Capital Kigali, and could not answer her phone calls.

As the storm gathered, Uwamahoro was gripped with more fear when she realized that she was still under her parents' care and could not move to start a family with a man who had already rejected her pregnancy.

“How dare you get pregnant? How do you forget the poor life we are living? How will I be able to feed you, your sisters, and your child with my small income?” Uwamahoro Mother said with an angry tone.

She felt guilty that her mother had to sell their only goat to contribute to her medical bills and other needs during her pregnancy.

 “I cried, as I had nothing to tell my mother. Our family is very poor, my parents were already struggling to provide enough food, and to pay for school materials, and health insurance.” said Uwamahoro.

Uwamahoro's story is not different from many other teenage girls in Nyamasheke District. This situation leaves the young mothers vulnerable to many social ills, including school dropout, poverty, gender-based violence, and sexually transmitted infections.

“I have been trying to figure out whether I am a child or an adult. Whenever I think about this, I begin crying, especially when I see my agemates live normal lives and being treated with love by their parents.” Uwamahoro stated.

Local leaders in the Nyamasheke District indicate that teenage pregnancy and early motherhood take an enormous toll on girls' education and income earning potential, causing persistent poverty.