DREAMS: Nurturing Teenage Mothers Through Vocational training and business start-ups
Reza Moraa is a 23-year-old teenage mother who became a parent while in secondary school. Her parents could not afford to pay her school fees and as common in most rural areas she was soon married off at a young age. Having gone through difficult childhood, she wanted to provide for her child the basic needs but could not get employment at her rural home. Hence, like other girls her age, she moved to city of Nairobi to work as a house help.
Although she did not have a close relationship with her mother, Reza had to leave her child behind and join her friend on a journey for her first casual job as a house help. This also proved challenging as she had to make way with a little pay and face all kinds of mistreatment. She went from being overworked to sleeping hungry at times. Sometimes she would not be paid in time and when it did it was paid in installments.
When she could not handle the mistreatments, she left her job and relocated to Kiandutu informal settlement in Kiambu County, where she heard about the DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe) program. Initially, she was skeptical about the program because she did not know how it would help her raise her child and cater to her needs. After joining, she was enrolled at a Vocational school for a business course targeted for young mothers to impact them with skills and ideas to sustain their lives.
“When I got into the program, I was already staying with my husband, who is a Boda Boda rider. At times he never left any money nor food when going to work. I would stay hungry waiting for his return. Sometimes he would assault me, but I did not have any option since I had sired another child with him. When I joined DREAMS, I learned some key life skills and was determined to change my life. I was enrolled in a college where I was trained in hairdressing and barber skills. After three months, we graduated, then I opened a salon and barbershop. initially, operating a salon and barbershop was challenging, especially dealing with male clients who are afraid to be shaved by a woman. And sometimes people may come wanting the services at a lower price. However, I am happy as I am able to make a living from my business” added Reza.
Reza makes approximately 300 Kenyan shillings daily and 500 over the weekend. Reza is determined to excel despite stiff competition. Reza plans to expand her business with support from her husband by learning an extra skill in tailoring to boost her earnings when she does not have customers, especially during the weekdays.
Tabitha Wangari is a 22-year-old teenage mother. She has benefited from the DREAMS Vocational business program that helped her open her tailoring shop last year. Her business is now eight months old. She is also a mentor at the LVCT-Health Kiandutu site. She is primarily involved with updating the Social Asset Building (SAB) and mentoring primary and high school girls. Tabitha meets up with her mentees every Saturday over two sessions in the morning and afternoon. She also does home visits, distributes sanitary towels, and conducts field follow-ups to girls supported by DREAMS.
Tabitha opens her tailoring shop in the evening from 5 pm after work and sews for approximately 2 hours on weekdays. She opens her shop on Sundays during the weekend, where she handles all her client’s needs. On average, she makes approximately 150 shillings on weekdays and 500 shillings on Sundays. The business sustains her family’s basic needs and pays for her son’s school fees.
“Ï am so glad I joined the Vocational training. If I had not joined, I would not be here” Tabitha.
The Vocational training for DREAMS targeting young women began in 2017, The Kiandutu site has been able to enroll 25 teenage girls through Vocational training with 22 girls setting up their businesses. LVCT-Health uses the training to empower vulnerable young women by placing them in colleges to acquire skills that translate into entrepreneurship. When the young mothers graduate from the Vocational colleges, they are linked to mentors and continue receiving other services as they start their businesses. Additionally, the program caters to the young girls’ school fees for primary, secondary, and college students.
Vocational training has created an excellent platform for most teenage mothers to realize their entrepreneurship potential. Reza and Tabitha prove that there is hope for other teenage mothers in Kiandutu and worldwide because of the help they received from DREAMS.
Story and photos by Rebecca Musanga