Orishaba’s Hope Restored

Orishaba Phionah aged 16 years is the last born of eight (08) from Bwegyerere Village–Nyaruhanga parish Ikumba sub county-Rubanda District. She became pregnant at the age of 15 when she was in s2 at Nyaruhanga High School.  After getting pregnant, she disappeared from school fearing that the school administration would discover and shame her before the rest of the students. She had been impregnated by a boda-boda man called Twesigye Amon who was commonly known as “Pogba the man”. She said that Pogba the man used to give her lift to school given that she was a day scholar and sometimes would not need to reach school late. After realizing that she was pregnant, the boda-boda man who had never told her his whereabouts disappeared from the village and switched off his phones. He had could not be reached nor found.

“…after getting pregnant, having no mother, I had no one to tell and could not be supported to stay in school. I then disappeared for two months. No one knew where I was including my father and young brother whom I was staying with in the house. This is because the society from which I come condemns any girl who gets pregnant at a young age or out of wedlock.”

 When Phionah disappeared, she went to stay at her elder sister’s place in Kashasha parish in Ikumba sub-county. On reaching her sister’s home, she lied to her that she had lacked school fees and wanted to work for money through casual work and then be able to go back to school the following term.  Her sister doubted but because, she was also unable to provide her with school fees, she allowed her to stay but later their father called looking for her. At this time she could no longer hide so told her sister the truth; who was unhappy but accepted her and allowed her to stay until delivery of her baby. She was however, sent back home immediately after the baby was born.

Phionah’s baby is one year and nine months but her life has never been the same because very few people in the community want to touch her baby or support in taking care. She appreciates AICM/IDF project for sensitizing them, comforting her and other teenage mothers. Because of this, she has been able to meet and share her story with other girls who are victims of teenage pregnancy like her which has given her some relief. After the advocacy for children not to drop out of school, and sensitization programs that have brought together the teenage mothers and other children who had dropped out of school, Phionah now has friends and  has learnt skills to enable her earn a living.

The culture element on girls’ education & teenage pregnancies

The culture still looks at a boy child as more important than a girl child. When resources to support the children with education opportunities are not enough, priority is always given to the boy child at the expense of the girl child. The same thing happens when the girl child becomes pregnant. The immediate decision is always not to send her to school anymore but rather get a man to marry her or have her do all the house work and offer casual labor as source of income to the family.

Impact of the IDF project: With funding from IDF, AICM has implemented a project that supports community structures for the prevention of high rates of girl child dropouts and teenage pregnancies among Batwa Resident Communities. However, AICM in partnership with IDF has been sensitizing communities through Ngozi groups, places of worship and other community structures to treat children irrespective of sex as equal. AICM home visits girls whose parents have refused to provide with school fees due to pregnancy, talks to the parents, counsel them and in the end some have accepted to their daughters back in school.  AICM has also organized teenage mothers who are unable to go back to school into groups for psychosocial support and skills acquisition. Some of the knowledge and skills provided to teenage mothers include; hair dressing, knitting, basket making and knowledge on child care, improved feeding, saving with the purpose and improved hygiene practices. These skills have built their self-esteem, enabled them to earn some income and look after their babies.