At 16 years, Mary Otieno, was expecting her first child.
Born of a strict mother, Ms Otieno knew too well, her pregnancy journey will not be rosy yet she was willing to soldier on.
She faced rejection, blame, isolation, to some point she felt that she had greatly disappointed her parents.
“I wasn’t ready to be a mother at that tender age because I wanted to concentrate on my studies. As a young mother, you have to be ready to face countless challenges including lack of support from your immediate family members,” narrates the now 19 year old.
Apart from the stigma, Otieno lacked support from the child’s father and this meant entirely depending on her parents for proper diet and prenatal care.
“I used to sleep most of the time due to shame as most of the students used to talk ill about my pregnancy. I felt rejected to the point I wanted to terminate the pregnancy.
Morning sickness made me feel tired and sick to an extent that I rarely went to school,” regretted Otieno calling on young girls to abstain from all forms of sexual activities.
Her appeal to the society, is to come up with ways of supporting the girls who were victims of peer pressure and societal rot.
Her situation is not different from Carolyne’s (not her real name), who is seven months pregnant.
The 14 year old has not had it rosy either. Her parents, she says, have been violent as they have physically abused her and sometimes denied her food claiming that she was a disgrace to the family.
“Health workers in some cases have used inappropriate language that shows their poor attitude towards me. They said that I am too young to have a baby which made me feel embarrassed and this lowered my self-esteem,” says the class eight pupil.
Stigmatization on teenage mothers is slowly but surely wiping the girl child from the society. Condemning is not a solution rather embracing can redeem them.
Silvia Wanjiku, a project manager at St Martin Catholic Apostle, says parents to these teenage mothers should be at the front line to curb stigmatization.
“Parents have to be friendly and open to discuss and educate the teenagers on sexual reproduction matters,” says Wanjku, adding that parents should be sensitized on responsible parenthood.
As a way of embracing the teenage mothers, St Martin Catholic Apostle has put in measures to rescue them from stigmatization. The organization with the help of its community volunteers and the department of counselling are able to offer basic counselling, mentorship programmes, deal with child abuse matters and educate parents on responsible parenthood.
“In addition, the organization has partnered with the health care system in training the nurses on how to handle the teenage mothers to avoid psychological torture,” adds Wanjiku, who has been offering psycho social support to Otieno and Carolyne.
Prestige Teenage Mothers School in Subukia, Nakuru County, is a home to such teenage mothers, who find solace from the brutal world around them.
According to the school Principal Gladys Kemunto, the objectives of the school is to provide special service for the student mothers so that they can continue with their education without being separated from their children.
“We have caregivers and a nurse who looks after the welfare of both the girls and their babies,” said Ms. Kemunto.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe in Nyeri County two weeks ago said, “We must rescue the affected girls and ensure they are taken back to school while building a solid community system that will end these challenges at the County and National levels. Let us have constructive community dialogue that provide solutions.”