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NIGERIA: Let’s Give Teen Mothers a Second Chance

Aramide Oikelome
Posted April 6, 2017 from Nigeria

Girls' advocate Aramide Oikelome says it’s time to stop rejecting teen mothers and start encouraging them.

“A girl’s life and dreams should not come to a halt because she got pregnant while in school.

The Story of Olamide

When Olamide first gained admission into secondary school, she had high hopes of passing with flying colors. She also had plans all mapped out to head on to nursing school, earn a degree as a registered nurse, and practice the profession she is so passionate about. She looked forward to being one of the best caregivers in town and someday raising a healthy, beautiful family.

She was 12 years old then, the first of five children raised by indigent and estranged parents. In spite of the challenges at home, Olamide demonstrated great courage and hope for a better life. But her father had left home, and without him she lacked mentorship and guidance.

At age 17, she became involved in a relationship with a young man named Rotimi, and one year into that relationship, she got pregnant. As a result, she suffered rejection and ridicule, as is customary in this culture. She had to drop out of school.

Back home, her parents expressed utter disappointment and refused to support her. Olamide had to move in with her lover. Rotimi, however, was a sickle-cell patient who, due to frequent ill-health and lack of adequate medical care, was unable to work enough to earn sufficient income to support her.

When Olamide was due for delivery, there was no money for hospital bills. Olamide had her son via Cesarean section, a very expensive procedure here in Nigeria. Her parents had to pay the bills to save her life, despite the fact that they had refused to formally give her to Rotimi as wife.

After three years, Olamide got pregnant again and had a baby girl. She has remained with Rotimi, though they are not legally married. Due to his constant health crises, he is not able to retain any job. With both of them unemployed and their two children unable to go to school or eat well, the small family appears stuck in a life of intense poverty and uncertainty.

Teen Pregnancy: A Life Sentence in Ijegun, Nigeria

Olamide represents today’s generation of teenage mothers whose dreams of a better life as educated and successful women have been sacrificed on the altar of social expectations. Because they got pregnant while in school (either through voluntary sex, forced marriage, or rape), these young women are condemned by society and sentenced to a lifetime of hardship.

For Olamide, all hope for a better future might have been completely lost had it not been for the intervention of Girls Arise Initiative.

Girls Arise Initiative is a project of Bestspring Foundation, a non-profit that I run in Nigeria as founder and executive director. It is a mentoring club that provides a safe and supportive space for girls to build and actualize their dreams through education and life skills training, in spite of poverty or intimidation.

Olamide started attending our mentoring meetings last year, where she was inspired and encouraged to acquire income-generating skills. She is currently training as an auxiliary nurse at a traditional birth attendant clinic, but things are still very tough for her and her family.

Girls Arise Initiative recently surveyed out-of-school girls in the Ijegun community where we work. Ijegun is a remote, densely populated community tucked away in the Alimosho local government area in Lagos State, Nigeria. It is under-developed and engulfed in abject poverty. A high percentage of youth here remain uninformed about their reproductive health, rights, and needs.

Our survey revealed an ever-increasing spate of teenage pregnancy in Ijegun with girls becoming mothers who are least prepared for the tasks of motherhood.

This, according to our findings, is due to the high poverty rate and struggle for survival here. Under such circumstances, youth, especially girls, are vulnerable and easily swayed in the wrong direction. According to Akin Jimoh, program director of Development Communications Network—a non-profit in Nigeria focused on promoting public health—young girls “are vulnerable to sexual violence when they are ignorant of their rights.”

Many of the girls who dropped out of school due to pregnancy in Ijegun are between the ages of 14 and 17.

Even though teenage pregnancy is rampant in the area, it is often met with rebuff and disdain. Some of the girls we spoke with said they were mercilessly beaten by their parents for getting pregnant. Others said they suffered rejection from their parents as well as the men responsible for their pregnancy. Still others said they were forced to marry the men who impregnated them, or as in the case of Olamide, were forcefully evicted by their own parents or guardians and had to move in with these men.

The overwhelming majority of these girls were also unable to continue their education because they were ridiculed by their peers and expelled from school. For girls who get pregnant as teenagers, one major setback is not being able to continue school in order to realize their potential.

My heart bled when I read the survey response from a 14-year-old mother who always cries when she sees her former classmates going to school. This tells how much her heart still yearns for education. In fact, 70% of the adolescent mothers we surveyed wanted to go back to school while 20% said they would opt for vocational training. Only 10% wanted start-up capital to do business.

A Second Chance for Adolescent Mothers

To stem the tide of misfortune among adolescent girls in Nigeria, we must first educate our young girls on their reproductive health, rights, and needs. Secondly, we must provide girls safe spaces to nurture their potential in spite of whatever mistakes they have made. Finally, we must advocate for a second chance for young mothers. Young mothers must have equal opportunities to empower themselves and earn income through education or skills acquisition.

We must reach out to parents, guardians, community elders, traditional rulers, faith-based organizations, educators, educational institutions, and other stakeholders in communities like Ijegun with this message. It is high time we as adults release our judgment of teen mothers so we can celebrate and encourage their potential and that of their children.

If given such opportunities the benefits are boundless: Young mothers will still be able to pursue their educational dream, even up to tertiary level and beyond; they will be in a better frame of mind to raise healthy and happy babies; the rate at which they dump their newborns in septic tanks and refuse sites for orphanages to rescue will drop; the rates of attempted abortion, related complications, and maternal mortality will fall; young mothers who opt for skills acquisition will be empowered to make a living and take care of their children; the community will enjoy relative peace, progress, and socio-economic development.

I believe our adolescent mothers should not be cast to the margins of society because they made mistakes while their mates are building brilliant careers and promising futures. We need not perpetuate cycles of poverty and waywardness by truncating girls’ dreams. A girl’s life and dreams should not come to a halt because she got pregnant while in school.

STORY AWARDS

This story was published as part of the World Pulse Story Awards program. We believe everyone has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could be our next Featured Storyteller!Learn more.

How to Get Involved

You can help advocate for girls like Olamide. Aramide is seeking volunteers to help her campaign for the rights of adolescent mothers in Nigeria. To get involved, you can reply to Aramide in the comments section below, or message her directly through her World Pulse profile.

For more information about Aramide's work, visit the Bestspring Foundation website. 

Comments 33

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Bim Adegbite
Apr 06, 2017
Apr 06, 2017

Absolutely....every one deserves a chance

Aramide Oikelome
Apr 11, 2017
Apr 11, 2017

Yes Sis!

Our girls deserve a chance to pursue thier choice dream and reach the pinnacle of success. May God help us to help them!

In Sisterhood,

Aramide

Mallama Rita
Apr 06, 2017
Apr 06, 2017

Thank God for people like you who give a second chance to girls like Olamide who were thrust into motherhood as a result of society's failure in giving proper orientation , opportunities and education to the girl child. Weldone great woman!

Aramide Oikelome
Apr 11, 2017
Apr 11, 2017

Hi Mallama Rita!

So glad to hear from you. Its high time we step up the campaign to defend the rights of adolescent mothers. They deserve better treatment and support.

Lets join hands to give the much needed orientation and education to our girls

Wishing you all the best in your endeavours as you serve humanity

Sending Blessings!

Aramide

Olanike
Apr 07, 2017
Apr 07, 2017

Beautifully written message of hope! Two wrongs can never make a right and I cannot agree with you any less that "teenage mothers deserve a second change". I applaud you for the amazing work you are championing and advancing in your community. Wishing yu greater strides ahead.

Greengirl (Olanike)

Aramide Oikelome
Apr 11, 2017
Apr 11, 2017

Olanike Darling,

Your words resonate with so much warmth and love. Thanks for being a wonderful cheerleader.

You are a great example of what it means to serve selflessly!

Wishing you greater and loftier achievements as you champion the cause of women across the globe!

Sending Love!

Aramide

djamila ibrahim olame
Apr 10, 2017
Apr 10, 2017

bonjour chére Aramide; nous sommês ravus de lire votres histoire vraiment nous vous remercons beaucoup de donner la seconde chance aux méres adolescentes vraiment c'est une travail a féliciter. que DIEU vous bennisse

Aramide Oikelome
Apr 11, 2017
Apr 11, 2017

Merci Beaucoup!

maryturkson
Apr 10, 2017
Apr 10, 2017

That is really important. It doesn't mean because they have pit to birth, they can't do anything. There are more opportunities around for them to adapt. 

Aramide Oikelome
Apr 11, 2017
Apr 11, 2017

Hi Maryturkson!

Truly there are loads of opportuities open to our girls despite the seeming setbacks they have encountered. We should encourage and support them, not condemn and disown them.

Together we can help shape their lives and give them the opportunity to excel. We can and we will!

In Sisterhood,

Aramide

Aramide Oikelome
Apr 11, 2017
Apr 11, 2017

One of my friends recently raised an argument to condemn the hyprocrisy of some so-called religious parents and in support of teen mothers.

Her words, "Yesterday I got to hear someone's teenage daughter is pregnant...and all hell is let loose.

My question is - Was she ever taught sex education? No! Did parents ever discuss boyfriends with her? No!

"So, Im like-  a young girl with raging hormones, yet nobody cared to educate her. And now that she is pregnant, all everybody can say is 'What will the  pastor say?'

This is absurd!

Debby85
Apr 13, 2017
Apr 13, 2017

Thanks so much, for the second chance opportunity, I believe parents need to be educated first and foremost, then sex educationist should be employed at hi school to corroborate what parents teach their children at home, or better still stand in the gap for parents! We can make the world a better place together! 

Aramide Oikelome
Apr 22, 2017
Apr 22, 2017

Dear Debby!

I totally agree with you that all hands must be on deck! Parents, teachers, mentors, religious leaders, community leaders and all must be sincere with our children. We must educate them on their reproductive health rights and needs. And we should have an open door policy so they can ask questions when they need to. We should not leave them in the dark and at the mercy of outisders to teach them.

If properly guided, they are not likely to fall into the trap of deceivers.

In Partnership,

Aramide

Sister Zeph
Apr 14, 2017
Apr 14, 2017

My dear sister 

I totally agree with you , we have to give such opportunities to the young women so that they an make their dreams come true also it will help them to protect themselves from rape and child marriage,this is what we are doing in Pakistan, we give them education and skills and then we not only give them mental education to protect themselves from rape or harrasment but we teach them martial arts too so that they have all kinds of protection, you are doing  an incredible job so proud of you 

Aramide Oikelome
Apr 22, 2017
Apr 22, 2017

Dear Sis Zeph!

I am so glad to connect with you here! I have heard so much about you and read about the amazing work you are doing in Pakistan. You are indeed a Powerhouse and I celebrate you!

I totally agree with you that our girls need every form of education, be it literacy, vocational and physical training to protect them from all acts of violence and intimidation. When a girl is empowered, the entire commuity benefits!

Keep the flag flying Sis Zeph! I celebrate you!

In Sisterhood,

Aramide

iyamail
Apr 17, 2017
Apr 17, 2017

I feel you, my sister. I have this cause of teens and knowledge about sex too very close to my heart. Keep doing the good job.

Thank you for taking care of these girls and giving them the space to dream again

Aramide Oikelome
Apr 22, 2017
Apr 22, 2017

Dear iyamail,

I feel deeply connected to you! Great minds, they say, think alike. I love your choice of words too.

How soothing and comforting it is to see our girls dream again! And how inspiring and fulfilling it is to help nurture their dreams to reality.

Keep the fire burning my Sister! Together we shall make it!

Sending Love,

Aramide

Natasha L
Apr 18, 2017
Apr 18, 2017

Aramide dear one - Every time I read another one of your stories I feel inspired by your brilliance.  Your writing is passionate, thought-provoking, articulate, intellectually rigorous, and powerfully expressed.  Your command of language gives you the beautiful gift of communication.  So proud of your work as a journalist and writer.  This Story Award is well deserved, Sister Aramide.

Thank you again for bringing to our attention this vital issue of the utter importance of educating girls on their reproductive health, rights and needs. Next will be teaching the boys on their reproductive health, rights and needs - and instilling in them full respect & regard for girls so that girls can live in safety and equality without threat or violence. Providing a safe space to nurture the potential of young mothers is your life's work.  Your determination and collaboration through the Girls Arise Initiative project of Bestspring Foundation is making a huge difference in your community.  

Every day you will be reminded that your work is needed, valuable and life changing.   You wrote, "We need not perpetuate cycles of poverty and waywardness by truncating girls’ dreams." These words ring out to give hope and blessings. Love to you!

Aramide Oikelome
Apr 22, 2017
Apr 22, 2017

My Dear Natasha!

I am short of words to express the effect that your words of encouragement and commendation has on me each time I read from you. I count myself blessed, really blessed to have you as a mentor and listener. This training has changed my life because of people like you.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

I agree with you that we must extend the training to the boys too. And Im glad to inform you that we at Bestspring have already started that. We started in October last year a boys club with a view to raising champions who will excel in all spheres of life, relationship inclusive.

We are still looking for experienced volunteers though but we hope to make the program more robust and impactful with time.

We will continue to give our best in service to mankind! That is the only way to make the world a better place.

Thank you for being such an amazing cheerleader and encourager! I celebrate you!

Sending Hugs and Love!

Aramide

rofeeaht
Apr 23, 2017
Apr 23, 2017

Everyone deserves a second chance ✌✌... Heal the world and make it a better place ✌✌✌

Aramide Oikelome
Apr 24, 2017
Apr 24, 2017

Very true Rofeeaht!

We owe our generation a duty to make it a better place! Together we cand and we will!

In Sisterhood! Aramide

JANEKALU
Apr 27, 2017
Apr 27, 2017

Hi Aramide, i concur that every teenage pregnant mother needs a second chance . It is so bad that the discussion about SEX EDUCATION is considered a taboo,  when the same girls become a victim of the same circumstance we were trying to prevent are   still abandoned. Parents should be exposed to the danger of not educating a child on the sexuality of her/his body  to avoid teenage  pregnancy.

Regards

Jane Kalu

Aramide Oikelome
May 16, 2017
May 16, 2017

JaneKalu Dear,

How true that many parents have not been fair to their children. They assume that the children are innocent and leave them to wallow in ignorance on issues of sex. And when they become vulnerable, the same parents blame them for being wayward!

Its time to stop the blame game! All hands must be on deck to educate our children and protect them.

We can bring about the much desired change and help give young mothers a new lease of life.

Thank you for your encouragement!

In Partnership!

Aramide

EquinixSCV
May 15, 2017
May 15, 2017

Thank you for your efforts and hard work on behalf of teenage mothers. What a wonderful organization!

Aramide Oikelome
May 16, 2017
May 16, 2017

Thank you for your encouragement as well! Teen mothers across the world deserve a second chance!

Warm Regards,

Aramide

Sally maforchi Mboumien
May 16, 2017
May 16, 2017

No child should suffer because of teenage pregnancy. Society should give them a chance. Thanks for talking on this issue of great importance because the chain of poverty and misery in our local communities stems from this situation. Keep soaring!!!!!

MiMi Ng
May 16, 2017
May 16, 2017

Thanks for sharing the story. Its very inspirational. We always "take it granted" for everything and didn't realize how blessed we are. There are millions people who are suffering and being exploited of what they deserved. I appreciate your hard work to initiate such great project. May god bless you !

Aramide Oikelome
Jun 03, 2017
Jun 03, 2017

Hi Mimi,

How true that we take so many things for granted and leave our girls to be traumatized and stigmatized when we should support them to bounce back to life and health.

Its time to stop the blame game! Its time to help them rebuild their lives!

I appreciate your encouragement. Keep up the good work at your end!

In Sisterhood,

Aramide

Meggsny
May 16, 2017
May 16, 2017

Thank you so much for sharing this story and for advocating for this. This happens in almost every country and it truly should not. I am the Aunt of a beautiful girl (22 years old now) but my brother and his now wife, were only 16 when they had her. This story resonates with me and I am so sorry for those who have to suffer during and afterward, when all they are trying to do is love & provide for their families.

Thank you! Please continue.

Aramide Oikelome
Jun 03, 2017
Jun 03, 2017

Meggsny Dear,

I am interested in your Niece's story! I believe it will help inspire and encourage others who are in this situation.

Could you please tell your brother and his wife to write for us? It will strengthen our campaign.

I appreciate you!

Aramide

Tebi Honourine
May 18, 2017
May 18, 2017

Thank you sister for sharing this inspirational story of yours. I am very mush motivated with your story. It personal encourage me and gives me light to encouraged parents in this field. Bravo!

Aramide Oikelome
Jun 03, 2017
Jun 03, 2017

Dear Tebi,

Im glad to know that you are empowered to encourage young parents in this situation and to help rebuild their lives. Together we can make a difference and we sure will!

Blessings!

Aramide

christelle
Jun 07, 2017
Jun 07, 2017

Merci de partager cette histoire sa nous aider aussi nous les fille, parceque beaucoup de famille mal traite leurs fille pour ca