World Pulse

US/CAMEROON: I Was a Rejected Teen Mother; Now I’m a Role Model

Marie-Claire Kuja
Posted March 30, 2016 from United States

By Marie-Claire Kuja

“The same families who kept their daughters away from me now want their daughters to be like me.

On that special evening when my son was born, I was just 13 years old and six months pregnant. Everyone had just retired to sleep when all of a sudden I needed to urinate. My water broke but I didn’t know what it was.

My father walked me outside as we had no toilets inside the house. A few minutes later the frequency changed and I needed to urinate again, only, this time, I couldn’t get out of bed. My father and I didn’t know I was in labor but my mother knew exactly what was happening. My son was about to come into the world prematurely in a village with no hospitals, electricity, or ambulance services.

My mother got up and, in her panic, prayed hard—but also started preparing for the worst. Soon I felt my son’s one foot and screamed. My father passed out and my mother took over the delivery. With no gloves or time to think, she put her hand right inside and got another tiny foot and pulled the baby out. But the head remained stuck. My mother instructed my now-revived father to press my stomach so that the baby’s head could come out. My son’s body was almost lifeless as he had inhaled so much amniotic fluid.

My mother threw cold water on him and there was a sign of life. She cut the umbilical cord, wrapped him in very thick blankets and handed him to our neighbor to hold while she waited for the placenta, but it wouldn’t come out. She ordered my father to take me on his motorcycle to the health center two hours away on bad roads.

When we arrived, there was no one there to attend to me so we set off again for a five-hour journey to the big city hospital. There, I was taken straight to the delivery room to remove the placenta. My son was placed in an incubator, with tubes connected from his nostril to his stomach. For three and a half months he was fed with breast milk I begged off other mothers since I was not yet producing any. During this time my family made so many sacrifices to make sure my son and I were fine.

Rejected by my community

Almost four months after his birth, my son was ready to return home. But in my village of Bawock, Cameroon, having a child out of wedlock is considered taboo. My son and I were ostracized. Moreover, he was born legs first. Many believed this meant he was a witch and must be killed.

My son was called a bastard. I was rejected by other girls, whose mothers banned them from being friends with me. My self-worth plummeted and I was constantly insecure. I felt trapped and scared.

But one day, so tired of fighting with myself, I decided to turn my pain around. I asked myself, why was I created? What is my life’s purpose? I also started keeping a journal. Because the subject of my writings was taboo and I couldn’t discuss it with people in my community, this was a means of release. Gradually, I noticed my journal was becoming a journey, not just a simple destination. I’d complete two to three journals a week. They were thick and full and ripe with feelings and uplifting thoughts. My own words became an inspiration to me as I read from my journal whenever I was down. I came to the wonderful self-realization that I am not a mistake. I am not useless nor a failure, or any of the other names I was called.

What others said about me had created negative belief systems about myself. Because of my friends’ testimonies after reading my writing, I know this is a universal struggle. I know now I am not alone, but I wish there was a book that could have helped me when I was growing up.

Becoming a role model

I made a pact to share my story with others because I believe only shared experiences can help. In order to reach women and girls globally, I started writing inspirational articles on self-esteem and empowerment for online magazines and local newspapers. But with an insatiable thirst for change and action, I took a step further and published three books in a series called False Labels in 2012, which are now are available on Amazon and in many schools in Cameroon, Zimbabwe, and other parts of the world.

I also designed a workshop curriculum that could be used in schools, churches, and women’s groups to teach self-esteem building and other empowerment related issues. Digital media gave me the opportunity to share my story with others worldwide, which has helped other women to use their voices too.

Photos of Marie-Claire with her son

Marie-Claire as a teen mother with her son and recently, at his graduation from nursing school. 

Another project of mine is inspired by my experiences as a teenager in Cameroon. I had no menstrual pads and no opportunity to buy any, so I missed school often. As a result, I started the KujaPads Initiative to end menstrual taboos and stigmas. Our One Million Pads for Progress campaign is helping girls from poor homes in Cameroon stay on track in school during their monthly period. We do school visits where we donate sanitary pads to girls and offer empowerment workshops on self-esteem and menstrual hygiene management.

Today I am a nurse in one of the greatest countries in the world. And my son—who was also rejected, and was even supposed to be killed and thrown away as per the culture of my people—is a healthy intelligent young man. He too is a nurseand graduated with honors from nursing school.

Although I live in the US now, I am building a movement as a changemaker in my native country and have created an inclusive 3-day annual empowerment conference for teen mothers, persons with disabilities, and the general public.

When I return to the community where I was rejected, most people come to see, greet, and learn from me. Many parents have asked for forgiveness. The same families who kept their daughters away from me now want their daughters to be like me. I have become a role model.

My Life Is My Message

I never gave up on my life but stood strong and determined to turn my life around for the best. Native beliefs would have killed my son if I had allowed them to conquer me. My advice to other teen mothers is to never get stuck in traditional beliefs that are not scientifically proven—and to not heed society, but create their own paths and bring their own brand of beauty into the world by believing in themselves.

Parents should not reject their daughters, but continue to support them with love and compassion, as my parents did.

I encourage everyone to learn to speak out, either verbally or in writing. I redeemed myself and found healing when I started using my voice to write and speak to other women. My life is my message to the world and it is enriched and fulfilled each time I empower a soul.


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Comments 39

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Leina
Mar 31, 2016
Mar 31, 2016

OMG !I will never stop being in awe of you my sister!This story has forced tears out of my eyes once again.The struggles we have to go through may sometimes seem insurmountable but  these rocky journeys  are leading us to a place where we can save many.You are doing just that and I could`nt be more proud!I LOVE you for being you!

Hugs,

Leina

Marie-Claire Kuja
Mar 31, 2016
Mar 31, 2016

Dearest Leina. Thank you so much for those empowering words. Am in total awe myself for waking up this morning to find the story here. The director God is leading is absolutely amazing. And all I can say is a big thank you to God and to sisters like you who continue to pick and mend broken pieces of me. Thank you and a HUGE THANK YOU TO WORLD PULSE. Much love sister. Kuja.

Emily Miki
Mar 31, 2016
Mar 31, 2016

Hi Nabila,

You have said everything like it should be said. Our culture is so stiff. My own story is in line with a little difference that my daughter's paternal family didn't get to see her not until she was a year old. Yesterday I was having a chat with a sister I met with in Limbe and her daughter is 12 but her paternal family has never seen her because her parents had her at the University level of their education. What I ask everyday is; when will these old mind-sets be changed and more families become more supportive. Children are blessings and that's the one blessing you and I can't stop thanking God for. You are a Success story. You story is powerful!. Am so sharing this.

Apr 02, 2016
Apr 02, 2016
This comment has been removed by the commenter or a moderator.
Marie-Claire Kuja
Apr 05, 2016
Apr 05, 2016

Hello Sis Emily Miki Thank you so much for your kind words.Of cause we have a very stiff culture which in a way affects many adversely. However I am not worried about your daughter because she will learn from the role model you are.And I have seen cases where those paternal family turned out being the first to start running behind the so call bastard children once they sense success.Take care of your daughter and teach her the best.Let her be her own woman because just like any one else, she is a blessing. All children are a source of joy and a blessing no matter their mode of entry into the world.

Thank you so kindly Emily.

Keep strong! Keep impacting. Much love. Kuja

chimdirimebere
Mar 31, 2016
Mar 31, 2016

Sis, you've really inspired me.  There are more girls than you can imagine in similar situations whose self esteem/worth have gone so low that they need stories like yours to help them,  I am going to do just that. The struggle must continue. So very proud of you.

For the continent of Africa and sub-saharan Africa in particular to see development, education of the girl-child must be paramount.   

Lots of love,

Chimdi

Marie-Claire Kuja
Apr 02, 2016
Apr 02, 2016

Hello Sis Chimdi.

I love your name by the way.

Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting lovingly and encouragingly.I know about the plight of so many girls who are still stuck in the shackles of low self-esteem due to that fact that they had children at a very early age and probably out of wedlock too.

However,the struggle must continue as you rightly said to help them regain their lost hopes.It is possible.Thank you so much sis.

With much love to sisterhood.

Kuja -Community Champ @ Sub-Sahara Africa Group.

Sarah Whitten-Grigsby
Mar 31, 2016
Mar 31, 2016

Dear Kuja, How true it is that experiences cannot be helpful unless they are shared so that once we have learned from them, others can too. Getting to know you is my honor and privilege. - Your Mentor,  Sarah

Apr 02, 2016
Apr 02, 2016
This comment has been removed by the commenter or a moderator.
Marie-Claire Kuja
Apr 02, 2016
Apr 02, 2016

Greetings Mama Sarah.

It's such an honor to be connected with you as well.A match made by God himself.Thank you.

I found so much joy,healing and power in sharing and will do it again because it's only through sharing that others can get inspired and empowered to transform their own lives.I am so blessed by your kind words.

Much love Mama Sarah.

Kuja.

Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi
Apr 01, 2016
Apr 01, 2016

Wooow your story is truly inspirational. You fought all the odds formed against you and you become victorious. Many people would have succumed to the norms, traditions and cultures, but you stood up for yourself, for your son and for all the young girls and women in Cameroon and all over the world. Well done my sister. Dont stop championing what you believe in becaue the sky is the limit .

Marie-Claire Kuja
Apr 02, 2016
Apr 02, 2016

Hello Sis Ani.

Thank you so very much.

Life throws so many challenges at us that sometimes its easy to succumb to the norms, traditions and cultures of our land which are so stiff.I would have if not for the kindness of my parents who saw the need to seed me to school.I owe this to them plus my personal and unwavering determination to right my wrongs.And I pray God will continue to use me as a vessel to reach as many women and girls and be a point of light to them.We can fall be rise again.

I am so blessed and powered by your kind and encouraging words.

Thank you.

Yours truly,

Kuja.

Soumya Vilekar
Apr 02, 2016
Apr 02, 2016

What an amazing Inspirational and motivating life ,Marie! You are in true words an example for all the women across the world who never try to fight back and give up easily. Your fight since your teens and the transformation to self realization is a true journey of life. One has to realize his/her motive and purpose alongwith knowing and assessing one's capability to acheive those things.

We can all say, we are really proud of you. You have the courage to speak and prove.

Thanks

Marie-Claire Kuja
Apr 02, 2016
Apr 02, 2016

Accept kind greetings Soumya.

You're always so kind and its always uplifting reading from you.Thank you so much for such an empowering spirit.I am powered by sisters like you.

I owe every step to and for blessing me with my parents who were able to look beyond my mistakes,get down into the trash can,pick up broken pieces of me and piece me back together again.And the journey continues as am very determined to be a point of light to many women and girls out there.

I appreciate you so kindly.You do so much justice to what women empowerment really means.

Kuja

World Pulse Community Champion

Sub-Sahara Africa Group (SSAG)

Mkandeh
Apr 03, 2016
Apr 03, 2016

Oh my God. You are really a true inspiration. God spared you during those tough times for a purpose and thankfully the world is feeling that purpose now. You are a true symbol of courage and I applaud you greatly for it. Keep doing the work you do. I am inspired. Thanks for sharing. In love and sisterhood

Marie-Claire Kuja
Apr 05, 2016
Apr 05, 2016

Greetings sis Mkandeh

It gives me so much joy reading your comment.I am blessed by sisters like you who care to stop by,read and encourage with such kind words.Thank you.

When I think of the goodness of the Lord and what He has done for me,I am so pushed to do what i do because I know He spared me in order to be a vessel of His love to others, who like me might be stuck in shackles somewhere.

Thank you sister.

Yours truly.

Kuja

Tamarack Verrall
Apr 04, 2016
Apr 04, 2016

Dear Marie-Claire,

I have been amazed and inspired by your stories, your descriptions of your work, your beautiful videos. Here, I am once again inspired on an even deeper level by reading about all that you have been through, and how you found the strength and trust in yourself to climb over any roadblocks and emerge as the visionary leader that you are. If I have even a moment of doubt in my own ability to create needed change, I have only to think about your message. We are all such inspiration to each other here in the level of change that we know is necessary. But to know from you how you met and dissolved these roadblocks, found and trusted yourself as a leader, and turned the attitudes of your village around so that they now hope that their girls will have some time with you, is such strong evidence of the possibility of creating change and is such cause for such celebration.

With love in Sisterhood,

Tam

Marie-Claire Kuja
Apr 05, 2016
Apr 05, 2016

Oh dear Tam. What more can I say?You really empower me I must admit.I am so uplifted every time I read from you.This is women empowerment at its finest. One of the lessons I have learned from falling is that a fall is never really a fall,but God's own way of redirecting our steps. So now when I look back at all the roadblocks,I see it was preparation for me to be where I am today today.Reason a Not-So-Perfect life like mind is empowering others to rise up from slumber and transform their lives. You've been a great pillar of support and I thank you.

Remain blessed always Tam. Yours truly, Kuja

Adahmbah
Apr 04, 2016
Apr 04, 2016

Hello Sis,

Your story is indeed a lesson to all teenage mums and parents who have lost hope of a brighter tomorrow.Thank you sister for sharing your struggles and for picking up your stumbling blocks to create awareness on the ignorance of our African customs and traditions.Your passion and determination for change is encouraging many women and girls to take action. Just Keep it rolling and God bless you.

Thanks

Adah Mbah

Marie-Claire Kuja
Apr 05, 2016
Apr 05, 2016

Hello sis Adah. Thank you so much dear.If my life as Not-so-perfect as it is has/is encouraging others to take action,then I will die smiling that God can use me for such a great purpose.

Stay very bless sis.

Keep strong!Keep impacting.

Kuja

ARREY- ECHI
Apr 06, 2016
Apr 06, 2016

What an inspiring and heart warming story to share. It reads like a favourite novel one is hard pressed tosee end.Our culture is good but also very stiff when applied wrongly.Thanking you for raising your voice and defying the odds. Your story inspires alot and for this hats off to you. Many congrats to your handsome young prince.

Marie-Claire Kuja
Apr 06, 2016
Apr 06, 2016

Hahaha Arrey.

Thanks sis.And for your very warm and encouraging  words.

You're the third person who thinks it reads like a novel.Someone has already reached out to do the job but as a writer I will write it myself with time.

On behalf of my handsome prince,thank you.

Yours truly,

kuja

Marie-Claire Kuja
Apr 08, 2016
Apr 08, 2016

Thank you Hasanuzzaman.

I am glad you found it help even thought I do not understand the last part of the sentence.

Kuja.

Tupem
Apr 08, 2016
Apr 08, 2016

Our culture is not stiff in Africa, it is hypocritic! The same culture that will castigate a female who decides to abort is the same culture that ostracises another that decides to bring a new life to be! Meanwhile the male who impregnates walks around like a hero! 

Marie-Claire Kuja
Apr 09, 2016
Apr 09, 2016

Dear Tupem.

Thank you kindly for stopping by.

Your comment is so deep.You got it right.

Our African culture is very hypocritical in their ways! "The same culture that will castigate a female who decides to abort is the same culture that ostracizes another that decides to bring a new life to be! Meanwhile the male who impregnates walks around like a hero". If a man rapes,beats or impregnates a girl,society instead turns to stigmatize the girl who is the victim. 

Thank you so much for adding your strong voice to this issue.

Yours truly,

kuja.

stella Ndugire- Mbugua
Apr 09, 2016
Apr 09, 2016

Kuja what an amazing story.... Thanks for sharing...I love that you have parented well and now the young man is ready to become a responsible citizen. Kudos! I am amazed at your energy and positive outlook on life, despite past hurts...

may any you continue being a role model to many more!

Marie-Claire Kuja
Apr 09, 2016
Apr 09, 2016

Hello Sis Stella.

Thank you so much.I am so blessed by your kind words.I appreciate the compliment on parenting as well.Yes he has really grown and is a great citizen too.

As for my past,it was a bitter one.But the challenge was to give it an interpretation that will empower me and others.I thank God for the courage to share because it is having such tremendous impact on readers.

Thank you sis.

Kuja.

Myriam Vololonarivo
Apr 22, 2016
Apr 22, 2016

Hello Kuja,

Thank you for sharing your story! This is an inspiration for all who loses hope.

Everything comes to a happy end, said my husband, if something did wrong. When I read your story, I see how much you suffered. But you never lose hope and the success of your son is the result of your perseverance.

For all of your steps, I wanna say thank you Kuja

Myriam Vololonarivo

national commissionner in charge of communication

association of girl guides Fanilon'i Madagasikara

Marie-Claire Kuja
Apr 24, 2016
Apr 24, 2016

Hello Myriam Vololonarivo,

Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to read.I am blessed by your kind words.

Your husband is absolutely right.There is light at the end of the tunnel.But we must forge forward regardless of our difficulties to reach that end without giving up.

With much appreciation. and best wishes to you.

Stay blessed.

Kuja

World Pulse Community Champion

Sub-Sahara Group.

AYABA
Apr 22, 2016
Apr 22, 2016

Marie-Clare,

I have read and re-read this write up and each time shed tears but am glad you turned out victorious. It's really a story so inspirational.

May you continue to grow from strength to strength . You really an enigma of strength and courage.

May your quest be successful.

Sincerely ,

AYABA

Marie-Claire Kuja
Apr 24, 2016
Apr 24, 2016

Dearest Si AYABA,

Many thanks to you for sparing the time to read through the long article.Your kind words and empowering and encouraging.

Victory comes from God and from our inner and personally determination to succeed.So we return all the glory to God for giving me the strength to overcome.

Thanks again and stay blessed.

Kuja.

CC @ SSAG.

BuzzingBee
Apr 25, 2016
Apr 25, 2016

I am speechless.  But so incredibly appreciative of your story.  I wish you lived in my state so I can give you a hug and beg you to speak to the various Boards I am a member of (one of which is our major hospital).  You are an inspiration and a gift.  Thank you for your courage and optimism.

Marie-Claire Kuja
Apr 27, 2016
Apr 27, 2016

Hello BuzzingBee.

Thank you.My heart if oozing with joy from your kind words.

Which state do you live? I live in New York and do  quite some speaking around here.You could be close by.Just lease let me know.

Thanks a lot for your encouraging words.Am grateful.

Kuja. 

Domina Msonge
May 18, 2016
May 18, 2016

Dear Kuja

WoooW! How inspiration story. Thanks to your parents for not giving up to you. Thanks to you father who was part to save your life at a labor time. How a wonderful family you are having.

Most of our African culture father of the family can influence any change to those bad taboos. I am real proud of your family

Domina

Marie-Claire Kuja
May 18, 2016
May 18, 2016

Hello Domina. Thank you so much.You're absolutely right. I am blessed with the type of family I have especially my father who forgave and continued to love me instead of disowning as it is the case in some African homes.I am really blessed to have him. Thanks again for your kind words. God bless you. World Pulse Community Champion Sub Sahara Group. Kuja Kuja.

Marne
May 30, 2016
May 30, 2016

Kuja, 

You have an amazingly beautiful story and I am deeply inspired by all you have accomplished.  Thank for for sharing your story with such vivid detail and encouraging us to continue to strive and grow.

Regards,

Marne 

Marie-Claire Kuja
May 31, 2016
May 31, 2016

Hello dear Marne.

I am deeply grateful for you kind words.

I have some the most beautiful feedback from this story and give the credit to World Pulse for creating such a forum where women like me could share their stories without being judged or laughed at.

I thank you.

Stay blessed.

Kuja

Lynmakas
Jun 07, 2016
Jun 07, 2016

Hello dear,

You are a true symbol of God's grace. So many girls would have given in to their traditional beliefs and thereby giving up on what lies ahead. You stood amidst and conquered it all. Thanks for sharing your success story with us. Many can draw strenght from the story you have just shared with us. Even the bible says "The stone which the builders rejected has become the corner stone" and this happens in our everyday lives. 

Thanks for sharing this wonderful story with us.

Love

Nneamaka

Marie-Claire Kuja
Jun 09, 2016
Jun 09, 2016

Dear sis Nneamaka.

Thank you so much for kind words. Am absolutely blessed by that. Let the glory go back to God who gave me the strength to move on and has continued to guide me. Thanks a lot dear.

Kuja