As I have been traveling thru Kenya for the past 2 weeks, I have seen many boarding schools for both boys and girls and also many children’s homes for orphans. But when a teen girl becomes pregnant, often against her will, there are few options. If the father and his family are willing, she can marry. Abortion is illegal. Becoming a single parent brings shame on your family and often cancels your chance of future marriage. When the founder of Imara first thought of establishing a home for unwed mothers, she found no resources available. No hits when she googled teen pregnancy and Kenya. 18 months later she has 8 girls and 7 babies, with one expected any day. The future plan is for 50 moms and babies. The need is great and the options for these women few. I have been given permission to share some of their stories with names changed.
Christine was given to her husband in marriage at age 10 or 11. Shortly thereafter, her parents died and she was not allowed to go to the funeral by her husband. She gave birth to her first child at age 12, delivering at home with the help of her mother in law. By age 14 she was pregnant with her third child and suffering from daily beatings, inflicted by both her husband and her mother in law. In the middle of the night she made the decision to run away, not knowing where she would go and having to leave her 2 young children. She traveled for 3 days by foot, sleeping in a tree at night. After arriving at a neighboring village, a kind older woman took her in and fed her. This same woman had heard of Imara House and contacted them. Christine delivered her child shortly thereafter and is a good mother to her third child, while she is only 15. She does not know what has happened to her other children and worries that her husband is now abusing them. She is slow to smile and one of the quietest girls at the home. She is only know starting to feel safe enough to voice some displeaure with certain rules. While I was visiting, we sat all the girls down and had a frank sex education course. Most of them were too embarassed to ask questions so we met with each of them seperately. With downcast eyes, she softly asked her question. “Do I ever have to have more children or get married?” At the age of 15 she wishes to be done with childbearing and cannot imagine a loving relationship with a man. The goal of Imara House is to provide these girls with a high school education and a marketable skill so that they can provide for themselves and their child. Future marriage and children can be their choice, not a decision that was forced on them at all too young of an age.