When she started narrating her ordeal, tears flowed from her eyes uncontrollably until a friend intervened to comfort her.
Rachel Namugize is operating a tailoring workshop with colleagues. She had at one time given up on life.
For 22-year-old Immaculée Dusabeyezu, life is not a bed of roses. Dusabeyezu is a single mother whose tale is one of rejection, stigma and loneliness. She is a typical representation of the life several single mothers lead, especially those with poor backgrounds.
Dusabeyezu’s troubles started in Senior Three at École Secondaire des Parents de Nyanza (ESPANYA). She got into a relationship with a fellow student who impregnated her.
“He was a really loving and caring man,” Dusabeyezu recounts, with sadness in her voice.
However, the seeming love hit the rock when Dusabeyezu informed her boyfriend that she had missed her periods for about three months.
“We had sex once and I got pregnant. When I informed him, he looked down pensively and then told me ‘there is nothing to worry about’. That was the last word I heard from him,” Dusabeyezu narrates.
Faced with the unhappy end of her love affair, Dusabeyezu was advised by many of her colleagues to secretly abort.
“I was in a dilemma. I knew giving birth would cause me problems but I also couldn’t afford killing an innocent life,” Dusabeyezu says.
She later decided to drop out of school and headed to her home village in Kiyumba cell, Cyanika sector, Nyamagabe District from where she gave birth.
Dusabeyezu says dropping out of school shuttered her dreams.
“I was rejected by my own family and the community. They stopped helping me. Whenever I asked for anything, they could tell me to ask the one who impregnated me,” Dusabeyezu testifies
Dusabeyezu represents many single mothers across the country. Many of them hail 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 and lack support to raise their children.
For several of them, especially those upcountry, life is very difficult since they cannot find jobs without adequate schooling. Some resort to working in people’s gardens while others go to towns and are lured into risky ventures like prostitution.
“I do not wish any girl to go through the life I have gone through,” Dusabeyezu notes, before pausing to rub tears rolling down her cheeks.
Like Dusabeyezu, so many other teenage girls in Nyamagabe District and other parts of the country are toiling after being impregnated and dumped.
Rachel Namugize, 25, a resident of Kigeme cell in Gasaka sector, Nyamagabe District, still remembers the rejection she faced from her family after she ‘accidentally’ got pregnant in 2007.
“After I gave birth, life became extremely difficult as I had to fend for myself. Both my boy friend and my family had abandoned me,” Namugize recounts.
“Things became worse when my father passed away a few months after I had given birth. My family started accusing me of bringing misfortune to the family by giving birth while still at home. It was a difficult situation to bear that at one point, I contemplated committing suicide,” she adds.
But despite the rejection and tribulations they have had to contend with, the single mothers have never lost hope for a better future.
Saved on the brink of suicide
Some of them have since been literary ‘rescued’ by several Non-Governmental Organisations supporting vulnerable girls and single mothers.
Organisations, such as SDA-IRIBA and Tuvuge Twiyubaka Association (TTA) have intervened to offer counselling to single mothers as well as life-skills training and financial support to help them start income-generating activities.
“If I hadn’t received support from Tuvuge Twiyubaka, I think I would be dead,” Namugize notes.
“They saved me at a time when thoughts of committing suicide were winning over me,” she adds.
After the organisation approached her about three years ago, Namugize and other single mothers trained in tailoring as part of efforts to help them gain skills to transform their lives.
At first, Namugize received a goat and later a tailoring machine which she used to generate revenue.
She has teamed up with other girls and single mothers and they are operating a tailoring workshop.
“From desperation and depression, we are now living better lives,” Namugize says proudly.
Namugize says she now rears goats and rabbits and saves some money weekly on an account she opened in a local saving and credit cooperative (SACCO).
“I thought life had come to an end. I couldn’t afford even the basic necessities like soap or clothes. But thanks to the (TTA) support, I have now redefined my life. I am better off today,” the young single mother says.
TTA coordinator Hilarie Ntawurushira, says they offer psychological and financial support to the girls as a way of helping them transform their lives.
She says through training, they assist the girls first to accept their condition and then devise strategies to move on through coming up and implementing income-generating activities.
“These are individuals who have faced several challenges but they have resolved to work towards improving their lives. We are just supporting them achieve their dreams,” she said.
The single mothers urge fellow girls to keep their virginity and avoid falling into the trap they fell into.
“Girls should always avoid men who want to lure them into sex because when they get pregnant, those men disappear and leave the girls to shoulder the burden of child upbringing. In addition, they can also contract sexually transmitted disease, such as HIV/Aids,” advises Alvera Uwimana, a 24-year-old single mother in Karambi village, Gasaka sector, Nyamagabe District.
Chantal Nyirazana, a Gender officer in Nyamagabe District advises girls to avoid the ‘dependence syndrome’ and work hard for their own good.
“Some girls still live as if they cannot survive without handouts from men,” she says.
“The donations compromise their dreams and put them in difficult situations such as getting unwanted pregnancies and contracting sexually transmitted diseases,” Nyirazana adds.