Seventeen years ago, Christine Umurungi (not real names) realized she had to stop fighting and take charge of her situation. The reality was she had to raise her unborn baby alone—at the ripe age of 20, becoming a single mom was something that had never crossed her mind for a second.
Her Cinderella dream to start a family had been crushed with just one statement from her charming Prince. They were popular and had been the perfect couple at campus with plans for a big wedding as soon as they graduated.
This dream soon vanished in thin air when they found out that they were pregnant. Like vapour in air, Prince vanished for months. When Umurungi fought her way to find him and make him see reason, he acted like he had never seen her before and walked away.
“That was the hardest blow of my life, it hurt so badly” Umurungi said.
That is when Umurungi decided she would not let Prince humiliate her anymore. She took charge of her situation and with support from her friends and family, she gave birth to a bouncing baby boy.
17 year- old Martin is Umurungi’s only child. He just completed his S.6 National Examinations at APERWA Secondary School, Kabuga and is waiting for his results.
“He has made me proud and I am confident in his success and the decisions he makes,” she said.
Many women are faced with the challenges that come with raising children single handedly. However, it’s their attitude towards these challenges that either makes them sweeter mums or bitter mums.
“I had to cut off breastfeeding when Martin was eight months old because I had to prove my competence at work,” Umurungi said.
Her hard work eventually paid off. She saved, got a small loan through Micro Finance and started her supermarket business in Kigali. This is what she has used to build her house, buy a car and meet all her son’s needs.
According to Jean d’Arc Majawamariya, the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion (MIGEPROF), the issue of single mothers is a deep one.
Mujawamariya said that women become single mothers either by choice or are forced by circumstances in cases death or pre-marital relationships that go bad.
“With modernization, the number of self-sustained, confident and independent career women is growing. This is changing the society’s perception of single mothers,” the Minister said.
Ancient Rwanda’s customs and beliefs were that women who singlehandedly raised her children were considered a curse brought upon a family.
Mujawamariya said this belief of shaming single mothers is strongly held by the elderly, but is slowly fading away in today’s generations. She also underscored the fact that the divorce rate is increasing due to more unhappy marriages.
“Rwandan’s have to understand that the development of the country does not only depend on men. It includes everyone, even the single mothers,” she said.
As a result, more women are opting to become single mother by choice. They are women who have decided to have or adopt a child, knowing they would be their sole parent, at least at the outset.
Typically, more career women in their thirties and forties have their biological clocks ticking. This has made them face the fact that they can no longer wait for marriage before starting their families.
Aline Uwera is a 42 year- old single mother by choice. When she accidentally became pregnant after an affair with a married man, she was more than thrilled to start her own family. She later adopted two other children whom she has brought up in love like her very own.
“Most of us would have preferred to bring a child into the world with two loving parents, and even though we have a lifetime to get married, nature is not as generous in allocating the child-bearing years,” Uwera said with a smile on her face.
According to Uwera, single motherhood has made her understand the importance of having children and raising them in a happy family.
“There were times when my children kept asking me about the whereabouts of their father, but let’s say they understood that he was not coming back, ever…thereafter they stopped asking,” Uwera explained.
“I can say I have provided for them spiritually, emotionally, financially and given them the quality time they deserve,” she said, adding that, “My children call me friend and that is all I need to know.”
Many single mothers, inspite of all the challenges that come with life and society’s perception of them, Minister Mujawamariya said, “they deserve respect like any other parents because they are taking part in the upbringing of the nation’s children.”