Last year saw me interact with different young women who were doing amazing things to empower their communities especially girls and women. I particularly met one Deborah Nafula during the YALI Regional Leadership Center East Africa training programme, who despite becoming a mother at a young age, maneuvered through a lot of challenges to raise her daughter and eventually become an ambassador for teen moms and young mothers.
Her candidness in this article gave me goosebumps. I hope you will learn something from her experiences.
Let’s dive in;
Please tell us about your background
I’m the lastborn child in a family of seven children. As a young girl, I always dreamt of raising a beautiful family in future after attaining my main goals in life. Being the last born I was a little bit spoiled and was showered with all the best things I wanted. My dad is a religious leader, together with my mum, they raised us well, taught us the word of God and life skills and they made us understand that the power of making choices is in our hands and like any other parent, they prayed we made right ones.
I studied Beauty Therapy at Vera Beauty College and Tourism Management at Moi University. I am currently an entrepreneur running two organizations : CEO at Amigos Tourism Network and De’Mire Modeling Agency. I also run two Initiatives : Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health education and My child: My duty campaign.
I love spending time with my mom, during our bonding time with her, she shares her experiences as a mother; the happy moments she had holding us in her arms and some difficult times she went through raising us up. My dad was of great support to her and played his role in our lives. I always listen to this amazing and touching collection of short stories of motherhood from my mum, they were simply bracing me up for my turn.
When Did you discover that you were pregnant?
I joined university while in a relationship with a great guy whom I had dated for almost two years. Towards the end of the second semester, first year, I felt changes in my body: the symptoms were so much related to pregnancy, but I was too scared to think about it. After a week full of worries and deep thoughts on the many possibilities, I had to check on a doctor. I remember not mentioning all symptoms; he could see stress written all over my face. In the morning I took in my sample and sat waiting for results, they kept calling out names until I was the only one at the waiting bay. I could feel the weight of what was coming ahead, the first thing I heard when I stepped in was “don’t worry, you will be fine.” At that moment my mind went blank, and then came a blackout and finally the whole world came crushing down on me. I felt alone at that moment. I must admit, this was one of my lowest points.
How did your family handle the news of your pregnancy?
My entire family was ready to help me get through it. As they always say ‘people talk’, yes they really talked; a preacher’s daughter, it was tough, I cried for several nights. One Sunday morning, my parents requested me to join them to church. I was not very sure about it, I still wished to have some more time. We got to church, my heart was so heavy. I held on through the service until when my dad stepped on the pulpit and called out for me. I stood beside him as he gave a speech that was my turning point and new hope. I will quote some lines from his speech “This is my daughter whom we are all aware of her situation. Yes, she is a preacher’s kid and now facing a challenge. What we forget is that this preacher is a parent like any other who is raising child going through challenges like any other child in the world. Every parent on this planet wants the best for their children, who at times make wrong choices and decisions that do not make them happy. But as parent when our children make a mistake, let us help them get up on their feet and correct these mistakes. We rebuke the mistake and guide them to step up no matter who you are or what you do. Our daughter has accepted her mistake and she wants to make things right, as her parents and family we have given her this chance. She will get through this with support from all of us. “I felt relieved, my heart opened up and I was ready to start my journey.
What challenges did you face raising your child as a young mother?
My baby Alice was born bouncing and healthy. When she was two weeks old, I had to go to school to fill up my deferment forms for an entire academic year to take care of my child. Motherhood does not come with a manual, my mum was my manual throughout and the entire family supported me in taking care of her. I did my best to have all things done right…it was tough but I had already made my choice. As I took care of my child, her dad would check in at times but not very often. I always had to call him, plan for him to meet and bond with his daughter.
I had to go back to the university when she was eight months old. Going back to school, long lectures, group work participation and working on beating assignment deadlines. I was always on the road during weekend to and fro. On the other hand came disappointments from her dad who wasn’t fully supportive. He came whenever he wished; he could even miss to be there for us when she was sick. There were moments I felt my head bursting, I didn’t even have time for myself, It was really tough for me with all that on my plate, I used to cry most times, get angry and furious but I always got back on my feet and kept on strong for my baby. My family was very supportive, my mum guided me all through, my sister Miriam was my strength tower. I was young but motherhood made me grow up and mature. I became strong willed and best mother to baby Alice.
What lessons did you draw from this whole experience?
Through this experience I learnt that at times things do not work the way we had planned or hoped. When this time comes, no matter how good or bad the situation might be, we really need to take some little time to try and figure it out, think critically and carefully, think about the possible consequences/outcomes and make a decision that seems most appropriate based on our knowledge, values, morals and goals. Every new challenge we experience in life, it’s never easy at first because we are not conversant with it but with time we get ourselves to understand it and find the way out of it. When we do it, we come out stronger than before.
How did you get back on track?
I got a contract with Save the Children on Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health education (ASRH). Mentoring and educating young boys and girls in and out of school was amazing. We discussed on different topics and issues affecting adolescents. We got to a point where they could open up and share personal issues. I was really concerned with the teen moms. These young girls were going through very stressful and depressing situations majorly rejection from family and the father of the child. So you could clearly see a faint future for the young girl and the baby. We did counseling and guiding to these young girls which really gave them hope. I was so concerned about it because I went through the situation and knew exactly what they were going through. These young girls make wrong choices and they are left alone to get through it. The men involved walk away free and do not care about the new born child welfare. It became a deep concern for me; I chose to work on a solution to this problem.
What does your Initiative Do?
Currently the ASRH mentorship program is running in schools. We hold sessions with students discussing on the various issue affecting adolescents. We can see the impact of this program in schools. We are networking with other organizations with the same program and others specifically focusing on teen and young mothers. As we are empowering these young mothers I feel it is very important to involve the young fathers too; create awareness and educate them on the value of taking up their responsibilities as fathers no matter the situation. The main focus should be on the child. Our society needs to raise responsible fathers who will raise strong families that will build our community.
My new project of My child; my duty campaign will mainly focus on young fathers involvement in raising up their children. Young fathers taking up their responsibilities, creating awareness and educating their peers. This will provide a support system to the young mothers who will be empowered to face and overcome challenges. We are focusing on providing a safe environment for children born with young parents, growing up in a secure environment with their needs met to a bright future.
Any Advice to a young girl faced with an unplanned pregnancy and confused on the direction to take?
Life comes with many challenges and at times as human beings we make wrong choices and decisions. When such a case happens, accept you have made a mistake, seek guidance and help from parents, guardians and relevant people who are your support system to guide and assist you get through the situation. Take important lessons from the entire experience, honor the efforts of the few people who choose to care, support and stand with you whether from family or friends. When you come out as a champion, strive to achieve your goals and use your experience to help others too.
People gamble with money because it is easily replaceable, when they loose, they can still get money to gamble again. Young girls and boys should not gamble with their lives, we only have one life to live. Focus on the important things in your young life, set goals and you will achieve them with time.