Shortly after completing primary school, Uwineza (not real name) was lured into sexual intercourse by a wealthy man who ended up impregnating her when she was just 16 years old.
As fate would have it, the man died and she was left to support herself and the baby singlehandedly.
The teenage mother who was living in Gatsibo District was rejected by her family, and so she moved to Kigali hoping to find a job.
Sadly, she couldn’t find employment, and resorted to sex trade.
The campaign also seeks to help young women improve their condition of living.Photos by Michel Nkurunziza
“I had to look for money to cater for the child. And that is how another man impregnated me. I gave birth to my second child at the age of 18. And the situation got worse,” she said.
Currently 24 years old, Uwineza shared her ordeal in Kinyinya sector, Gasabo District, during a campaign to sensitise girls on the dangers of sex at a young age, unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS.
The campaign also seeks to help girls improve their condition of living to avoid dependency on men who might want sexual favours.
The mother of two has hope that life will get better as she has already started benefitting from short courses in TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) from which she generates income.
“When I heard that there was a project willing to support teen mothers, I sighed in relief. I was trained in hairdressing and I recently graduated. Before this, my life was hard. It was not easy to get money for accommodation. But today, I work and get between Rwf2, 000 and Rwf3, 000 a day which is a lot of money for me that ensures daily food, rent and other basic needs,” she said.
In their association of 24 members, she has over Rwf50, 000 that she has been saving since the end of 2018.
“We have formed a savings association and every day, each one saves at least Rwf300. We have to run projects that will not take us back to where we started,” she said.
“If you get pregnant at a young age and opt to look for rent without a job, you’ll end up in sex trade to get the money. These small income generating projects we are creating will solve all the issues we have been facing. We are upbeat that our future is bright,” she noted.
Uwineza is just one of the 5,415 girls in Gasabo District who are supported to improve their livelihood through TVET.
According to Marie Rose Uwababyeyi, with African Evangelistic Enterprise Rwanda (AEE Rwanda), a project funded by USAID in Gasabo District, they started supporting vulnerable girls at the beginning of 2018.
“Of those beneficiaries, 896 got a three-month short-course training in TVET while 200 studied TVET courses for a year. 2, 417 went back to school and other out-of-school girls and teen mothers joined savings groups,” she said.
The girls are in categories based on age; 10 to 14, 15 to 19 and 20 to 24.
“We have modules teaching them about how to save with goals to start big projects. We have females who are mentors for these girls. We also gather men, especially young men, who impregnate or infect these girls with STDs so that they change behaviour.
Males and females found with HIV/AIDS are advised on way of life and cautioned on how they can avoid infecting others,” she said.
The beneficiaries of the project are tested for HIV every six months to know their status.
“The girls are not only educated about sexual reproduction. They are also given opportunities to be able to learn Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) so that their life is aligned with the country’s vision of job creation and self-reliance, which is ensured after training,” Uwababyeyi said.
In Kinyinya sector where the campaign took place, Uwababyeyi said 303 girls were given scholastic materials to help them in school.