BURKINA FASO – Care centre gives teenage mothers a future
As soon Antoinette told her boyfriend she was pregnant, he slammed the door in her face. Suddenly, he would have nothing to do with her any longer. Even her uncle, in whose home she had been living, simply kicked her out of the house when he learned of her condition. The 16-year-old found herself completely alone, but fortunately the story ended happily. A neighbour told her about the care centre for pregnant women and single mothers run by the Catholic Church in Dedougou. She was able to seek shelter there and can now give birth to her baby in an atmosphere of loving care and support.
Antoinette‘s story is common to many young girls in Burkina Faso. Socially speaking, women are very much on the bottom rung. Only around 14% of them can even read or write, and the number of young girls trying to raise one or more children alone is growing. More often than not the father of their child will not accept any responsibility for it. Most of these girls are already from poor and disadvantaged families, often with no one to care for them. Many are in fact orphans. When they become pregnant, they are thrown out of the house or forced into an abortion. Sometimes these girls give birth to their baby and then abandon it on a street corner.
Many of them are already compelled to sleep on the streets, since they have nowhere else to go. Others may be fleeing from an arranged marriage, and some may have already slid into prostitution because they can see no other way of supporting themselves and their baby. This is often the start of a vicious circle in which they then become infected with HIV and end up in a still worse plight than before. It also frequently happens that they become pregnant again very soon afterwards, still further compounding the difficulties of their life. And sadly, some of these young women end up in such despair that they commit suicide.
The centre for young mothers in Dedougou offers a refuge for many girls and women who have ended up in such desperate situations. Here they are given support and advice, the opportunity to continue their schooling – or indeed go to school for the first time in their lives – and additionally the opportunity to train in a useful skill, such as hairdressing, for example. For many of them this is the first time in their lives that anyone has ever cared for or helped them. Here they learn to feel valued and safe and can bring their child into the world in peace and security and start to look towards a better future.
ACN has been helping for this centre for some time now. Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we are able to help once again this year, with 15,000 Euros.