How Civil Society Organisations are transforming lives of single teen mums

Alphonsine Mukamabano, a beneficiary of Tuvuge Twiyubaka at her home based sorghum juice business

Life can be challenging for single mothers anywhere in the world, more so if they are teen mothers and living in poverty. In many parts of Rwanda, single teen mothers face financial challenges, and the majority of them that hail from rural areas usually lack specialized job skills, as well as the education required to get proper employment.

Not long ago life was not a bed of roses for 24-year-old Marie Claire Mushiyimana, a resident of Manwari cell, Nyamagabe District. Mushimiyimana is a single mother of two whose tale is one of rejection, stigma and loneliness. She is a typical example of the life several single mothers lead, especially those with poor backgrounds across different parts of Rwanda.

Highlights

  • This project is part of a Joint Program between the One UN/UNDP and the Government of Rwanda to strengthen civil society organizations nationwide
  • Tuvuge Twiyubaka Association (TTA) have offered counselling to single teen mothers and life-skills training as well as financial support to help them start businesses
  • To date, 50 CSO projects in a wide cross-section of thematic areas have been supported in Rwanda, benefitting thousands of individuals and community members across the country

The life of Myshimiyimana is now better thanks to the support of Tuvuge Twiyubaka

Mushimiyimana’s struggles started at only 20 years old when she got into a relationship with a man who impregnated her. “Our relationship was great in the beginning, he was a very charming, loving and caring man,” Mushimiyimana recounts. However, the love affair hit the rock when Mushimiyimana found out that she was pregnant and informed her boyfriend. “When I informed him, he told me that he is poor and that he cannot help me raise the child. That was the end of our relationship,” Mushimiyimana narrates.

With a broken heart, Mushimiyimana had no choice but to give birth at her parents’ house. “I knew it was going to cause problems vis- à- vis the relationship I had with my parents, but I had no other choice but to run to them,” Mushimiyimana says.

During her pregnancy and after giving birth, life became tougher for Mushimiyimana who was rejected by her family and community. “At some point my parents abandoned me. They stopped helping me, if I asked anything I could easily be told to go and ask the one who impregnated me. “My parents eventually ended up kicking me out of their house,” Mushimiyimana says.

Having to raise her child alone, she did everything from begging to being a domestic worker in order to make ends meet. She says the working conditions became unbearable after a while. Her jobs went beyond what a normal person could carry, she had heavy workloads, long working hours, unfair treatment and low wages. In the end she could barely afford anything.

Amidst these challenges, Mushimiyimana also met another man who promised to help raise her child and provide them with a better life. “I started living in his house, he provided food and any other thing I needed. I thought my agony was coming to an end. I was very happy and excited,” Mushimiyimana narrates. As their love affair went on, Mushimiyimana found herself pregnant for the second time and her partner was kind enough to support her throughout the pregnancy. About two months after giving birth, Mushimiyimana was in for a shock – she found out that the man she called her dream partner was married to another woman and had other children. So begun another terrible chapter of her life.

Mushimiyimana is one of many single young mothers across the country many of whom come from poor families and became single mothers in their adolescence. These girls are often abandoned by their partners, rejected by parents, relatives and sometimes their entire communities. Invariably, they lack the support needed to raise their children. For several of them, especially those upcountry, life is very difficult since they cannot find jobs without adequate education. They face no option other than to accept poorly paid, low-level jobs in generally unfavorable working conditions, with an unfortunate few resorting to the sex trade to make ends meet.

Alphonsine Mukamabano, 28, a resident of Mutiwingoma cell, Nyamagabe District, also still remembers the rejection she faced from her family after she got pregnant. Though she still lives with her mother she recounts how life became extremely difficult after giving birth and how her community stigmatized her resulting in low self-esteem and depression.

 Mukamabano counting single motherhood struggles and how it is now different thanks to the support she got

Like Mushimiyimana and Mukamabano, so many other single young mothers in Nyamagabe District and other parts of the country are struggling. However, despite the rejection and tribulations they have had to contend with, these single teen mothers have over the past few years been supported by several civil society organisations supporting vulnerable groups and single teen mothers.

Organisations such  Tuvuge Twiyubaka Association (TTA) have intervened to offer counselling to single teen mothers and life-skills training as well as financial support to help them start income-generating activities in Nyamagabe, Nyaruguru and Huye districts. The project imparted life-changing information to these mothers, helped them form support groups, and open up possibilities for concerted action towards improving their welfare.

This project is part of a Joint Program between the One UN/UNDP and the Government of Rwanda to strengthen civil society organizations nationwide. To date, 50 CSO projects in a wide cross-section of thematic areas have been supported in Rwanda, benefitting thousands of individuals and community members across the country. The Joint Program benefits from direct financial support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation which enabled the program to scale up its interventions in 2016.

After receiving trainings on business development, entrepreneurship and financial saving four years ago, Mushimiyimana, Mukamabano and other single mothers are now implementing small income generating activities. Mushimiyimana now has goats and started to retail bananas, cassava and beans in the local market. Mukamabano also sells sorghum juice.

Mushimiyimana says through trainings, they are taught how to accept their condition and to move on by developing business plans and implementing income-generating activities. She says their lives are better off today thanks to Tuvuge Twiyubaka Assocition’s support.

“Before joining other girls at Tuvuge Twiyubaka, I was lonely and thought life had come to an end. I didn’t think there was anyone else out there facing problems such as mine. But thanks to the Tuvuge Twiyubaka Association’s support, we have now redefined our lives. We’ve teamed ourselves in different cooperatives and we support each other. We are happy and alive!” Mushimiyimana says proudly. 

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