The AVSI Teen Mothers Assessment in Rwanda was conducted between February 2022 and March 2023 to examine the root causes and consequences of teen pregnancy in Rwanda.
Specifically, the aim is to firstly understand which are the main root causes - financial, social, educational, family conflicts, traumas, separations - of teenage pregnancy; secondly shed the lights on how the surrounding environment - relatives, friends, authorities - hide the problem, respond to the issue, try to support - before, during and after the pregnancy - young single mothers, and finally to understand the way the community is organized to prevent teenage pregnancy and support teen mothers.
To this end, AVSI has involved communities in a dialogue structured around Focus Groups, within the 5 districts of Gicumbi, Gatsibo, Nyanza, Ruhango, Kamonyi. The assessments were conducted among the community members, who were divided in groups of respondents: teen mothers, female parents, male parents, young boys and local leaders. Around 10 people were invited to participate to each focus group.
Teenage pregnancy in Rwanda: understanding the root causes and implications
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The general finding of the assessment is that social shame drives the entire community, making it difficult to prevent, mitigate and respond to the problems associated with teen pregnancy.
In this context, not only the support is minimal, but also teen mothers use it very little as they are scared. Furthermore, discrimination leads them to opt for high-risk jobs such as sexual workers or jobs such as waitresses and house maids that in Rwanda expose often woman to harassments.
Greater awareness and real change in values and behaviors are urged for any improvement to come along. Parents and in particular the mothers of teen mothers stand out as the most capable to promote and support such change, but they often struggle to communicate with their daughters due to the generational gap.
To mitigate such negative consequences, AVSI has been designing and implementing targeted activities to reduce the risks faced by young single mothers. For example, thanks to the Humura Shenge project funded by Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) and RASKOB Foundation for catholic activities from 2019 to 2022 has supported 400 young single mothers from the districts of Gicumbi and Gatsibo to graduate from conditions of insecurity and exploitation to self-reliance and resilience, by improving their psychosocial and legal condition through vocational and technical trainings.
Being teen mother in Rwanda: the story of Louise and Delphine
Louise and Delphine are among Humura Shenge’s beneficiaries. After getting pregnant around their 17, family conflicts and difficulties arose. Thanks to AVSI they have learned tailoring and shoe making, and they are now part of a cooperative which enables them to provide for their children and family.
In this context, as Louise testified, AVSI’s advocacy within communities plays a key role. “We as villagers, we are not directly connected to sources of funds, but AVSI advocate for us, that’s how we access different funds from both government and private institutions”.
At the age of 18, Louise was at school in the 4th year of secondary school in the Accountancy Option.
Her family faced a financial crisis, and they could no longer afford her school fees. She was about to abandon schooling when a teacher who live close to her promised to support Louise studies and to marry her later. Louis accepted the offer, trusting in a neighbor very well known by her family.
Louise started to hang out with the teacher and got pregnant «When I told him I was pregnant everything ended. I Couldn’t reach him out, he even changed a phone number. So, I was alone, without the possibility of studying, not married. That teacher still leaves next to us, but he never helped me before, I was peacefully living with my parents, but since then, it was the beginning of all conflicts in the family »
Louise gave birth to his son and her life changed some years later when she had the chance to get involved in an AVSI project to help teen mothers to resume schooling.
After 6 year of that meeting Louise leads the Inkwakuzi cooperative in Gicumbi, which counts 28 members, and got to train another cohort of teen mothers. She is one of the beneficiaries that became a volunteer, representing an essential resource for AVSI Rwanda.
“When our cohort has graduated, I got hired by AVSI to train other adolescent mothers. This way I earned money which allowed me to buy my personal tailoring machine at home, which I use to work at home when I am not here in the cooperative. Clients keep increasing in my village.”
AVSI’s intervention made her regain the confidence for her future projects and ambitions. “Before getting pregnant, my dreams were to become a professional businesswoman. After getting pregnant, everything changed and lost hope for the future. But Today I feel confident again, and from the new tailoring skills and experience I have gained, I want to pursue my former dreams, work hard, become an entrepreneur until I will open a textile factory”.
I was lonely, hopelessly lost. Today I am a strong lady, no man can trick me again, I am no longer in chaos, I am purpose-driven lady, I know what I want, I know who I am. A better person, a better mother.Delphine, teen mother supported by AVSI