Catholic faithful at Cathedral Parish of Ruhengeri in Musanze District have contributed Rwf1.7 million towards support to underage girls from vulnerable families who dropped out schools as consequence of being defiled and impregnated.
The idea to support the teen mothers from the parish was inspired by a petition by some children from the parish to the church leaders asking them to do something to support their friends who became mothers prematurely.
“As a parish, we did not know the severity of the problem until it was brought to our attention by some of our children who participated in the pilgrimage at Kibeho last year,” Emmanuel Ndagijimana, the parish priest told The New Times.
He went on to say that the parish made an official communiqué in the holy mass calling on every Christian to render a helping hand to the teen mothers through tithe.
“We embarked on this initiative on Christmas Day and other masses after and Christians have been very supportive of the initiative; everyone is contributing according to their ability,” he said.
After gathering about Rwf1.7 million, the father said, they asked church cells to identify teen mothers from vulnerable households to ensure they are facilitated to return to school.
“A total of 621 teen mothers were traced across the parish,” he revealed
Ndagijimana pointed out that the church called a meeting with the teen mothers and 54 of them requested to be facilitated to return to school.
However, the remaining number (567) said they have been stigmatized in their communities and in their former school, and the priest said that these need special attention.
“These teen mothers need society to be empathetic to their plight, they need to be showed some love,” he said.
The teen mothers who wished to resume their studies were given school uniforms and other items to return to school.
According to Father Ndagijimana, the teen mothers who didn’t prefer to resume studies will be facilitated to choose other vocational skills of their choice for them to live a dignified life.
He, however, called on government and other partners to join hands with the church in helping teen mothers from vulnerable families.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Health, in 2017, at least 17,444 teenagers had unwanted pregnancies across the country and many eventually dropped out of school or suspended their education.