A ray of hope for teenage mothers

David Kikonyogo of Champions Bet hands over equipment worth Shs53m to Patricia Praise the executive director of TMCSF. Photos / Michael Kakumirizi

What you need to know:

  • That naivety has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent spiralling effects that have skyrocketed the rates at which underage girls have been lured into early parenthood.

It is baffling that in this digital age a girl can clock 16 years without getting nourished about the ramifications of unprotected sex.

That naivety has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent spiralling effects that have skyrocketed the rates at which underage girls have been lured into early parenthood.

Ten years ago when Joshua Mayanja conceived the concept of bailing out stuck teenage mothers through his Teenage Mothers and Child Support Foundation (TMCSF), he envisaged a scenario of the numbers declining and the defiled teenage girls getting justice and care from concerned parties.

Inspiration

“I was inspired by my mother who gave birth to me at a young age and struggled to raise me up by sewing clothes. I was touched and decided to dedicate my life to fighting this vice, to take on the defiling men and tow the line of training a girl is training a nation,” the TMCSF director revealed at his Bweyogerere facility that housed about 50 needy and teenage mothers.

He says it is alarming that each year the number keeps doubling without any tangible taming measures by the stakeholders.

“In the two years of lockdown and after, we have received more than 200 cases in Bweyogerere alone yet the overall number in Wakiso District may stretch to 1000,” Mayanja says.

To curb the worrying trend, Mayanja has employed the send a thief to catch a thief mantra by employing the teenage mothers that have acquired tailoring, baking and other skills at his offices to talk to young ones.

Hard economic times

For ages, poverty has ranked highest among the contributors of defilement, HIV spread and immorality. With the high inflation rates, young girls have fallen prey to self-seeking men according to Mayanja. He notes that some parents run to his foundation after being frustrated by Police yet other guardians choose to negotiate with the culprits out of court.

“Apart from the financial and moral challenges, our ‘teenage mothers versus teenage motherhood’ theme has not been welcomed by most schools yet we wanted them to share their testimonies with the young girls to get first-hand caution,” says Mayanja.

Harnessing talent

Among the battered girls, most below 16 years are those that have tried their luck at the heinous prostitution vice that has brought them in confrontation with HIV and other STDs.

That has propelled Mayanja’s foundation to tap into their talents by starting up drama groups, netball team and a women football team that not only gives them hope to be future national team stars and professionals but also eases on the trauma they go through.

It has been noted that most of the girls come from the ghettos and dominate domestic violence cases reported at various Police stations across the country.

Appalling stats

According to a UNICEF report published last year, Ugandan adolescents stood at nine million and are still vulnerable to poverty, HIV, early marriage, teenage pregnancy and low participation in secondary education.

Aisha Kigongo a 16-year-old defilement victim. 

In the same publication, the Ministry of Health acknowledged that 25 percent of Ugandan teenagers are married before their 18th birthday and continue having babies into their mid-40s.

Since the TMCSF inception, more than 1,000 teenage mothers and an equal number of children have been supported, empowered, rehabilitated and reintegrated to the society and 380 of these graduated in tailoring and hairdressing courses.

Kamuli, Jinja in deeper trouble

According to Praise Patricia, the TMCSF acting executive director, eastern districts of Jinja, Kamuli and Mayuge have recorded the highest numbers of teenage mothers.

“Our offices in those districts are overwhelmed by the inflowing numbers and yet we have already overshot our 500 take in capacity. We care much more about the girls than the boys because they face many consequences and are often chased from their homes,” says Praise.

“The lasting solution would be using these skilled teenage mothers to tell their young ones that there is life after that predicament, most are marginalised, get mental illness, not considered by governments as adults yet society consider them as ones, they cannot make a perfect marriage,” she narrated.

TMCSF has registered 300 teenage mothers in Jinja while their Iganga and Kamuli facilities are housing more than 200.

Helping hand

Last week, betting company Champion Bet, in their social corporate responsibility mandate, bailed out TMCSF with Shs55m worth of materials to use in skilling the underage mothers.

“We gave them pampers, computers, cookers with ovens to bake, sewing machines and counselled them that a better life lies ahead. I saw a struggling 16-year-old with twins and felt pity and was compelled to lay a brick on reducing the vice,” says Denis Kikonyogo, the manager of Champions Bet. 

Hallowing tales

Aisha Kibombo, 16, was a Senior Four student at Bombo SS when she had an intercourse with 17-year-old James Ssuna, a student at Mengo SS that resulted in the pregnancy she currently carries.

15-year-old Shakira Tasiima (left) cuddles her child. Tasiima was defiled when she was only 14 years old. She went on giving birth to twins. 

“I did not know that unprotected sex can lead to pregnancy because it was it was my first time, my parents chased me, I was temporarily imprisoned at Kira Police station before I was told off by the boy’s family,” narrates Kibombo.

She dreams of majoring in tailoring and vows never to engage in unprotected sex again if God grants her safe delivery.

Her blues are not different from age mate Fortunate Musimenta who left Kyegegwa for Kampala after the death of her father and her mother remarrying.

“I was lured by an askari named Paul into sex where I worked as a maid and did not think one session would lead to this two-month pregnancy. Mum told me to care about myself yet Paul also left me on my own because he has another wife so I’m in a state of despair and at crossroads,” she says with a tinge of remorse. She too vowed to abstain once she gives birth and is now concentrating on learning bakery at TMCSF.

Perhaps Catherine Namuli’s horrible experience is more tear jerking. At 17 years while a still a Senior Four student at Kirinya High in Bweyogerere, she entangled with her boyfriend Juma Ssekandi who was in Senior Six. Whereas he sat his exams, Namuli did not as she gave birth, was chased from home by her riled parents William Sewagudde and Robinah Nassejje and now looks after her child.

“I want to study baking and plaiting hair when I get money. I want to go for adult education. The most hurting thing is that the boy’s family has not accepted this child,” she said as she tried to hold back tears.

Looking frail and dejected, Seri Nambi was impregnated by Peter Muwonge while she was 16 years. When the kid clocked three months old, he sold off the plot of land they lived in thus rendering them homeless before he vanished for good.

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