Why on earth would a woman give birth to a baby and then kill him? Why would she endure the pains of pregnancy and labour; only to give birth and dump her new-born in a trash can or garbage bin? Time and again we hear the stories of teen mothers strangulating their new-born or throwing them away; and most times, this comes after several attempted abortions have failed. One cannot help but wonder why such girls would not rather give the baby up for adoption or take him to an orphanage for fostering instead of wasting the life of an innocent child in such a despicable manner.
Very recently, an undergraduate student from one of the tertiary institutions in Northern Nigeria was intercepted at the domitory toilet after killing her baby and attempting to flush her into the soak away tank. Her mates, who stumbled on her while engaging in this dastardly act, had raised alarm, which brought some other hostel mates into the restroom. With their booing and ranting, they got her to pick up the baby and match to the school’s administrative block for further questioning before she was handed over to the police. Unfortunately, it was too late; the tiny tot’s life had been snuffed out already.
While condemning this heinous act in its entirety, we must not be oblivious of the fact that adolescent mothers face a huge challenge as a result of societal stigmatization and in some cases, outright condemnation. Oftentimes, these young mothers are surrounded with so much hate and negativity that they despair for life. Unfortunately, sometimes it is not even their fault that they got pregnant as young girls. While some are victims of rape and abuse, others get pregnant as a result of ignorance and lack of information on their sexual reproductive rights and needs. Only very few get into this situation wilfully. And even at that, do they really deserve to be nailed and crucified.
Very recently a 19 year old Salvadoran rape victim, Evelyn Beatriz Hernandez Cruz was sentenced to 30 years in prison for delivering a stillborn, even when it was reported by BBC that she passed out while giving birth. My take is- Why should society torture an already traumatized girl in this manner? Hasn’t she suffered enough to have been raped? Where is the rapist that got her pregnant? What judgement has been meted out to him for violating and destroying the life and destiny of a helpless girl in this manner? Why treat Evelyn like a criminal and sentence her to three decades behind bars while her violator is allowed to walk free? Why this waste of precious life, strength and destiny? Why this hypocrisy in high places? Why this double-standard by the very people that are supposed to be custodians of moral standards and equity? Where is the balance? Of course this is another case of gender inequality and discrimination; another case of injustice against women and girls; another sad case of man’s inhumanity to man; yes, men’s inhumanity to the womenfolk.
This shame-game must stop. I maintain that a girl’s life and dream should not come to a halt because she got pregnant while in school. She should not be left to pine away in shame and regrets while her mates are building brilliant careers and fulfilling purpose. She deserves another chance. When she is assured of a second chance, she won’t be tempted to go for abortion. No, she won’t be tempted to snuff life out of her new-born or throw him away as garbage.
Rather, she would be confident that despite the fact that she missed it, the future is assured. She would be confident to walk free, talk free, live well and dare to dream again. Yes, she would be encouraged to nurture her new-born with love and warmth. And of course, she would be empowered to pursue a career path and strive to succeed.
This is why we at Girls Arise Initiative are set to help adolescent mothers pick up the broken pieces of their lives together again. We are committed to restoring their shattered dreams and giving them the necessary support to become economically independent and empowered.
Come July 27th, we at Girls Arise Initiative would be engaging the adolescent mothers in Ijegun in a skill acquisition session. Based on the general consensus reached during our first summit on 11th June, we shall be training in Soap-making. This is one of our decisive steps towards economic empowerment for teen mothers. Other steps will follow as we engage community women and mothers in dialogue to join the campaign and end the stigmatization. Its time to sing a new song. #SecondChanceForAdolescentMothers