An organization that works to improve lives of vulnerable children and families in Kigali has revealed plans to unveil a teen mother’s reintegration and support model that could be scaled up at a national level.
The model dubbed “Continuum of Care” helps young teen mothers through three levels- healing and trauma counseling, skills and economic empowerment, and reintegration into families.
According to the model initiators, Hope and Homes for Children Rwanda, this approach empowers teen mothers who undergo a lot of challenges after giving birth under different circumstances such as rape, group influence, and unprotected sex.
According to the most recent Rwanda Demographic Health Survey, released in 2020, the number of underage pregnancies rose from 17,337 in 2017 to 19,832 three years on.
So far, the model has seen 250 teen mothers in Kigarama sector benefit from its program approach enabling the beneficiaries to overcome social stigma, trauma, self-reliance, and acceptance in society.
Claudine Uwineza* (not her real name) is one of the teen mothers who narrates how the model helped her to overcome her trauma, loss of value, and dreams as a child.
Uwineza, 17, was raped and got pregnant at 14 years giving birth to a son, whom she says she didn’t love at all from the day he was born.
“I never loved my child and you can’t believe I beat him up at one week of age because he reminded me of what I went through,” Uwineza.
Uwineza says that the Police Response Center for Sexual and Gender-based Violence Victims- Isange One Stop Center (IOSC) helped her to follow her case and bring her abuser to justice.
With the help of Good Samaritans, she joined the Hope and Homes for Children program and was enrolled in the back-to-school program to study auto mechanics for six months and later graduated.
Uwineza is currently employed as a paid intern mechanic in Kigali and through the organization’s support re-integrated with her family where she feels fulfilled despite what happened to her.
“It is not easy to give birth as a child but today I feel accepted and not seen as a prostitute. My son is now three years old and I love him better than before,” she said.
Uwineza was speaking at the end of a week-long campaign organized by Hope and Homes for Children aimed at providing structured and positive holiday programs to children, and youth including teen mothers, and parents from vulnerable communities through plays.
After three years of implementing this model in Kagarama sector, Kicukiro district, Hope and Homes Rwanda Country Director, Innocent Habimfura said that they plan to conduct an impact assessment that will be shared with the government for scale-up.
Habimfura explained that currently they are focusing on skills empowerment and raising awareness to prevent teen pregnancies by educating parents and youth on how to prevent crime, drug abuse, and unwanted pregnancies specifically.
“On one hand it is not fair to abandon teen mothers even when an accident happens to them. That’s why we think that this model helps to holistically address the challenges that teen mothers go through,” Habimfura said.
Over the years, 23,000 participants have benefited from the organization’s training programs across Rwanda and were equipped with the knowledge and skills to support the deinstitutionalization process.
Habimfura said this has been achieved by bringing services close to families, to make them more functional and capable of addressing the needs of children and ensuring they stay together.
Hope and Homes for Children boasts of initiating a pilot program to eradicate institutions (orphanages) to ensure all children are safely transitioned into families and communities with access to health, education, and jobs.
The organization has successfully worked with over 150,000 children and their families and helped close 14 orphanages with plans to close one further orphanage out of the four remaining in Rwanda.