In Rwanda, teenage pregnancy is a major, growing and serious problem. Early pregnancies have a disastrous impact on a girl’s life because they end her childhood and girls are prematurely thrust into the role of mother before they are physically or mentally ready for it. Teenage mothers are often socially isolated and have few freedoms and very few educational prospects. They often feel deprived of their freedom of choice and lose their right to health, education and protection.
These young girls often experience dangerous complications during pregnancy and childbirth, quite a few contract HIV/AIDS and many are exposed to violence. Denied educational and economic opportunities, they and their families are increasingly likely to live in poverty.
Premature pregnancies, for example when a girl’s body is not mature enough to carry a child to term without complications, often lead to complications during pregnancy or childbirth and are considered the second leading cause of death of underage girls between the ages of 15 and 19 worldwide. Babies born to underage mothers are at much higher risk of death than those born to women aged 20-24.
Young mothers are more likely to be out of school and struggling with economic problems. This puts them and their children at risk of (sexual) exploitation, developing health conditions and perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
Teenage pregnancies also have serious long-term consequences for the economic situation of communities and countries. Underage pregnancies are more common in poor or rural areas or those with little schooling. Girls in Rwanda who have no formal education are 5 times more likely to have children early than those who have at least completed primary school.
The Ministry of Health in Kigali stated on 25 February 2020 that it has seen a rapid increase of 78,646 known cases of teenage pregnancies aged 11 to 18 years and older in Rwanda.
The project Mama Courage contributes to reducing poverty, hunger and inequalities. It also supports girls’ education and enables the particularly disadvantaged group of single teenage mothers to find decent work.
The project Mama Courage aims to promote the education of young women, strengthen their skills and help them to become independent.
With the opportunity to train, they are given a chance to earn a living for their children in a good and honest way. Jobs are thus created, especially for women in rural areas. The aim is to qualify the graduates in such a way that they find employment or are enabled to become self-employed. It would also be conceivable to found cooperatives at a later stage or to support them in their founding.
The training centre offers active support to young single mothers who have dropped out of school.
By imparting basic entrepreneurial knowledge, the women in rural regions are strengthened and enabled to start a micro-enterprise. Working in manual trades is one of the few opportunities for young mothers in Rwanda to support their families in a respectable way and to shape their own lives.
With the training centre, we give support to those young women who are already mothers.
Thanks to the support of two foundations, the project Mama Courage was able to start in March 2021 with the areas of prevention and empowerment. Since June 2021, we have found suitable premises and the training part will start in autumn 2021 after the necessary reconstruction and renovation work.