When your school career is disrupted by an unplanned teenage pregnancy, it is key to be equipped with skills that help you build a future for your family. Thuma from Kenya is a 21 year old young mother with a history of transactional sex. Empowered in the Girls Advocacy Alliance (GAA) programme, which strives for equal rights and opportunities for girls and young women, she has tapped into opportunities to nurture her business skills and pursue a training as a teacher.
Even though Thuma comes from a low income background, her parents have always managed to provide for her and her seven siblings. Thuma hails from Kwale county, the coastal area in the south of Kenya, where transactional sex is considered quite normal. As a girl, she got the opportunity to attend secondary school, which is not a standard practice for girls in Kwale. This changed however when she fell pregnant, at the age of 18.
“In my teenage years, I started hanging out with friends who had a bad influence on me. My new friends encouraged me to engage in sexual relations. They even introduced me to a 26 year old boda boda rider (motorbike taxi). He used to drop me off at school for free.” The transactional sex led to pregnancy. Thuma was faced with her father no longer supporting her education.
“My father was adamant. He said now that I was pregnant, there was no need to continue with education. Instead, I should stay at home and look after my child.” A community activist came to Thuma’s rescue. “She managed to convince my father to let me finish secondary school. She also traced the baby’s father, who had fled, and summoned him to take up responsibility for the child. He has since been supportive of his child.”
Through the same community activist, Thuma joined the GAA girls club in Kwale while pregnant. “I have participated in training and awareness sessions on self esteem, goal setting, being a young mother, its challenges and how to overcome them. Through GAA, I have been linked to various institutions and individuals for support. I managed to secure a loan of 30,000 Kenyan shilling (about 250 euro) to expand my business.”
Thuma owns a shop where she sells deras (coastal women attire), school stationeries and beauty items such as lotions. Part time she is studying Early Childhood Development. Her business is able to provide for her basic needs. “I am more respected in the community and I am busy chasing my dreams. I want to be a school teacher. I also want my business to grow bigger and better and build a house.”