Teenage mother, Yvonne (17) of Tombo Ward 15 in Nyanga District dropped out of school after she had fallen pregnant at 14. She was then doing Form 1 and her child, a boy is now two years old. She stays with her widowed mother who is a subsistence farmer. The father of Yvonne’s child is unemployed and stays with his own parents.
It would seem that the teenage mothers are in abundance in Tombo area. They are 15 known teenage mothers in the area.
I have three of my friends from my areas who fell pregnant when they were teenagers, said Yvonne.
Asked if she would want to go back to school, Yvonne said, she wanted to go to school but was however unsure what programme she would want to do once she completes school.
“My biggest challenges as a teenage mother is that, I struggle with looking after my child. I am always fighting with my parents who blame me for falling pregnant. They say they look after both my child and myself which I feel is a burden to them. I need economic empowerment programmes so that I can look after my child,” said Yvonne.
Another teenage mother Rachel (17) said she would welcome support on income generating projects so that she can support her child. She said she appreciated the support she has received from Rural Women Assemblies (RWAs) in her community who have supported teenage mothers with psychosocial support. RWAs are women groups who have mobilised themselves at community level to fight poverty and promoting women’s rights supported by ActionAid and partners.
“The RWAs have helped us to come up with a teenage mother support group comprising 15 teen mothers from my area. However, the RWAs have limited resources to provide for our economic needs,” said Rachel.
In Tombo area, most girls were dropping out of school due to unwanted pregnancies and teenage marriages. Some were dropping out of school because of poverty, according to Stella Madongonda, a community child care worker from Ward 15.
Mrs. Madongonda said, some RWAs were assisting some of the teenage mothers and orphans and vulnerable children with school fees in the area. However the RWAs were struggling to make ends meet due to lack of viable markets to sell their produce such as vegetables and sometimes end up not assisting anyone.
The teenage mothers from Tombo stand to benefit from an introduction of a three-year ActionAid project; Empowering Girls in Zimbabwe to Overcome Barriers to Education starting from 2017 to 2019. The project, which is to be implemented in 18 districts in Nyanga District, east of Zimbabwe, will be supporting girls in selected rural communities to secure access to education and protection from abuse. It will target 3 000 vulnerable in and out of school girls of 6-18 years.
As ActionAid joins the rest of the world in Commemorating Day of the African Child, we are calling for an end to child marriages and teenage pregnancies. Child marriages steal the childhood from the child violating her fundamental rights. Let’s all support children to achieve better lives, ActionAid Zimbabwe Acting Head of Programmes Betty Sithole Said.