How the Johari Project Transforms the Lives of Teen Mothers

You know how they say everything can change in an instant? For Celestine and Sharon, it was an innocent look. For Celestine, it was a letter from Nack* that set off their relationship. For Sharon, it was a glance at Tim* during the parade. These seemingly insignificant moments set off a series of events that led to unexpected love and, ultimately, the reality of teen pregnancy.

One day, both Celestine and Sharon noticed that they had missed their periods. The reality of her pregnancy hit Celestine when her mother noticed a change and remarked that she had gained weight. A visit to the clinic confirmed she was 5 months pregnant. Sharon, on the other hand, noticed her delayed periods and initially dismissed them. When her mother asked why she hadn’t been borrowing sanitary towels, the truth came out: she was pregnant.

According to KDHS Data 2022, the rate of teenage pregnancies in Kakamega County is 15%. This high incidence brings about interconnected issues that profoundly impact young girls, their families, and the community. One of the most immediate consequences is the disruption of education, as many pregnant teens drop out of school. The societal stigma further compounds their difficulties, leading to shame and psychological issues like stress. Economic hardship intensifies as families already facing financial constraints struggle with the additional costs of childbirth and childrearing.

Realizing they were pregnant was a turning point for both Celestine and Sharon. Celestine’s mother insisted she leave school. Sharon, engulfed by shame, felt equally hopeless. Both girls faced immense challenges: they lacked basic necessities, had to drop out of school, and their family relationships deteriorated. In their difficult moments, both considered dying by suicide, feeling trapped by their circumstances. Although Celestine’s mother agreed to take care of the baby, both she and Celestine faced societal shame and backlash. “I was rejected by fellow students; people were so mean to me,” Celestine said.

Teenage pregnancy often leads to girls being chased away from their homes, abandoning their children on the streets, or being sent off to work as housemaids. They are rarely cared for due to their pregnancies. Accessing accurate information on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is challenging. There is a lot of misinformation, such as myths about how to prevent pregnancy. Society shies away from sex conversations, terming it a taboo topic and leaving the burden to mothers to educate their daughters.

Youth Changers Kenya (YCK), through the Girls Education program, launched the Johari Project to offer holistic support to teen mothers. The project aims not only to return teen mothers to school but also to provide psychosocial support and SRHR information. The teen mothers were provided individual and group counseling sessions as well as training on SRHR, including contraceptive use and safe sex. YCK has supported 11 teen mothers to complete secondary education, including Sharon and Celestine. 6 are now in universities and colleges across Kenya.

YCK also had a session with the parents to demystify the myths about contraceptives and the importance of creating a parent-child relationship. These resulted in a shift in mindset and attitude towards education. After the training, they committed to supporting other parents in the community to understand the importance of education and to support the education of teen mothers. “I urge those parents with teen mothers to return them to school to enable them to learn because they will be the light of tomorrow,’ said one of the parents.”

The teen mothers have seen their lives turn around. After what seemed like the end, Sharon and Celestine are grateful that YCK gave them a second chance to pursue their dreams. I have always desired to teach. YCK told me that I have been placed at the university to pursue a bachelor of arts in sociology. I was overwhelmed with joy because I have always wanted to travel far and reach wide, say to Nairobi and beyond,” Sharon shared.

Gender equality can only be achieved by leaving no one behind. Teen mothers contribute to making society better. It starts with changing the narrative and mindset about sex and sexuality. YCK continues to contribute to gender equality by challenging social norms that oppress certain groups in the community. YCK works with key gatekeepers, including parents and chiefs, to educate them about their roles in reducing teen pregnancy and ensuring that pregnant teens are supported to continue pursuing their dreams.

Despite the challenges Sharon and Celestine faced, they were determined to pursue their dreams. “I am hopeful that I will finish my studies, get a job, and change not only my life but the life of my parents as well,” Celestine said.  Their journey highlights their resilience, strength, determination, and the importance of support. They now look forward to completing their university and college degrees and building a better future for themselves.

Do you want to contribute to their lives and make a difference? Give towards their education today. Donate here.

By supporting the Johari Project, we can collectively create a brighter future for teen mothers and their communities. Your contribution can help transform lives, break the cycle of poverty, and promote gender equality. Join us in making a lasting impact.

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