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Giving teen mums new lease of life

Ann Mitu was recognised by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2016 for her efforts in offering support to young mothers.

Sandra Wekesa @AndayiSandra

Juggling demands of everyday life plus the additional demands of a young child is difficult for parents of all ages. But teen mums face a unique and daunting set of challenges. Ann Mitu knows this too well. In 2010 at the age of 19, just after completing her secondary education, she unexpectedly got pregnant.

Her parents were so angry with her. She had ruined her great chance of enrolling to university, pursue a career and live to achieve her dream. They told her that her boyfriend needed to take responsibility.And, therefore, Ann decided to move in with the love of her life who at that time was still in the university.

But as fate would have it, her boyfriend passed on. “Losing my boyfriend in 2012 on the day of my birthday was the worst thing that ever happened to me, it really hurt me.

I didn’t know how my life would be without him around,” she recalls. Losing her young husband threw her off balance. She had to look for means to get money for food, rent, her baby’s upkeep, among others.

With no idea of raising a child on her own, she had to pick up the pieces and stay strong for her one-year-old son. Determined to make something out of herself, Ann began the hustles with small scale businesses such as selling bhajia in her home in Eastleigh, Nairobi. “It was, tough, but I had to do something to help me get on my feet.

Also there are a lot of temptations that face young single mothers such as engaging in sex for money. I didn’t let them take the best of me so, I decided to focus on ways I would raise my child,” says Ann.

Ann realised she was not the only single mother who was facing challenges raising her child. She decided to set up an organisation, which focuses on young mothers who have ‘messed up’ in life. “It all started as a joke. I used to talk to a friend who is also a young single mother and before I knew it, I was on TV giving talk shows discussing young mums issue.

I later decided to start Young Mothers Africa, an organisation aimed at reaching out to young mothers, helping them make informed decisions, encouraging them to go back to school and also take care of their children,” she adds. The project is not only running in Kenya, but extends to our neighbouring country in Tanzania.

“In Tanzania, young mothers go through a lot, especially since President Maghufuli is against teenage mothers going back to school. I see the need of helping these women better themselves and become important people in the society,” she adds. “We cannot lose all our young girls to teenage pregnancies. Something needs to be done to save our leaders of tomorrow.

Advising teenage mothers to embrace family planning methods has really helped a lot. We are able to control the number of pregnancies. Also, we get to monitor the children and also improve their way of life,” says the 26-year-old.

Her passion for helping young mothers has brought her joy and also made her to be recognised by various foundations globally. “I was humbled to be recognised by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2016.

I was also ranked as the most influential youth in East Africa through my quote ‘We can’t lose all our young women to teenage pregnancies because they are our leaders of tomorrow’,” says Ann beaming with pride.

Ann, who is currently a volunteer at Lions Healthcare Centre at Eastleigh, reveals that she has helped over 500 women over the past four years. Despite all the work she does, it’s so difficult to believe that she actually rans the project through donations from well-wishers.

Anytime she decides to visit young women, say on the streets, she gets donations of clothes and sanitary towels that she is able to give them. She says in as much as it is so hard to raise a child alone, it is always good to be strong for the child.

“Also make them understand that in as much as you are alone, you will always walk with them and put on the shoe of the other parent, so they don’t feel like they miss much,” she notes.

Ann encourages young girls to learn from others and avoid being caught up in such difficult situations. “Sex is not an emergency, so it can wait until the right time,” she concludes.

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