As seen in some of the pictures below, we train under various tree shades shifting by the direction of the tree shade. We stay near the road and so all the dust from the passing cars and motorcycles is inhaled by us but most importantly by the babies that are as young as one month old that the young skilling mothers come with. The babies are asleep beside their mothers because we don’t have a nursery or the capability to rent one.
Secondly, we run the very first and only abuse shelter where in we mostly have teenage mothers who have been banished from home by their parents for getting pregnant. These mothers range in age from 13-16 in most cases. If a girl doesn’t get pregnant by 17 years of age she is culturally “a good” who is passed the age of “maturity”. She is married off immediately and so her 1st pregnancy finds her husband’s home. Because Bride Price was paid for her, she is valued more than the one who gets pregnant at 14 years before bringing Bride Price.
Families always banish and try to forcefully send the girl to live with the man responsible or his family, but these men usually not only deny but also run away from the community, leaving the girl stranded and helpless.
Our approach is to take them in at the shelter for some time but usually for a period not more than two weeks as we work with the probation officer, police and other stake holders to either reconcile them with their parents or immediate family members like grandmother, aunt, uncle or even an older sibling especially older sister who herself was most likely married when still a child.
We always have to negotiate “a deal” before they take back the Child Mother and our deal involves us enrolling the expectant teenager into our skilling classes which include tailoring,weaving and beading and crafting among others.
By enrolling the expectant teenager, we are equipping her with a skill that can help her take care of her child and for the parents or guardian, it relieves them of the worry of taking care of another person (the unborn child).
Aside from the customary value of Bride Price attached to a girl Child right from birth, sometimes, the thought of feeding and caring for another person amidst limited resources is the reason Parents/Guardians chase and banish their child who got pregnant. It is why the first option is to take her and abandon/leave her at the family of the man responsible but what usually happens is that the man or boy shall run away from the community and his family shall equally chase her away claiming none of them impregnated her and that she should go look for the guy responsible else where. The girl shall be mistreated and denied food by the man’s/boy’s family just so she can leave.
Before we started working, these girls ended up prostituting themselves or marrying already married men that are way older than them just so they get something to eat and a place to put their head at the end of the day. This has exposed many to HIV/AIDS.
On the other hand, because almost all women in our community marry at a young age, they are treated with a high degree of contempt that arises from the already adult dominance attitude and behavior of older men that marry them. They take advantage of the economic dependency of these girls on them to subdue them even if it means beating them and indeed beating women is considered a right every man holds and can execute because his wife is his property to control and discipline. It is then the norm for women to be beaten without consequences for the men because it is always the wife in wrong and the husband is the head of the family and so he NEVER faults anyone or anything.
A lot of women do endure abuse because they are told it is customary for the man to beat his wife. Girls are raised to know that their mothers and grandmothers were beaten by their husbands yet they never left their marriages so if it happens to them someday, they must endure and stay in the marriage or relationship short of which they don’t amount to ‘good’ women.
In fact, several times, girls are sent to cohabit with a man as she is subject to a series of tests such as, Can she bear kids?, how hardworking is she? Does she please the man sexually? Can she take care of the Man’s family?, Can she endure beatings and insults,”failure” of any of these tests, means No Bride Price shall be paid.
Women both young and old have been and are still enduring so much abuse but because of our continuous engagement with them, we have created a space where they are getting comfortable to open up and seek help from us. We now see women who have been beaten to no recognition point and would have stayed at their homes to endure as they have been told, come forward to talk to us, to seek counseling and even legal advice in some cases. We shelter them too as we look for a solution for them that they are comfortable with.
We however, do have just one room to share sometimes amongst 11 people at ago. We would like to construct one block room and divide it to cater for a training classroom and shelter which has a small First Aid Clinic.
We have bought 4 Anti-hills which are hopping to dig out and use the clay from them to make bricks. We however can’t afford Cement, sand, aggregates, Iron Sheets, timber and Construction Labour. Please consider a donation to help us Build Together.
We are kindly requesting you to stand with us. We will highly appreciate your support.