“My mom was not there for me, she would never support me with my homework and so. She would say her man come first, and I just go out there to find love. I just wanted love, but it was not love I find…,” she trailed off and looked at the young boy who sat on a chair next to her sucking feverishly on the bottle in his tiny hand.
It was obvious that she loved the little boy, but I knew what she meant when she said she did not find love. She is 19 and the mother of a son who was born when she was just 16. She became pregnant at age 15 and the father of the child was 26.
I met her at the office of the Women Across Differences (WAD) office and she agreed to speak after being assured that she will remain anonymous. She is the youngest of her mother’s three children and she is only now developing a relationship with her father, who was absent from the home setting since she was a child.
“Getting pregnant was hard. I didn’t really had that support from my family. If they give you certain things they would talk about it,” she said quietly.
“When I started the relationship with my child-father he was 26. I met him through a friend.”
I told her she was too young and could not have given consent to have sex and in fact she was raped. She looked at me for a while but did not respond to my statement though I was sure she heard, especially in light of the fact that she has been receiving assistance from WAD, an organisation that has worked with teenage mothers over a number of years.
“When I started to see him,” she continued, “…he use to give me stuff and my mother would see it but she never ask where I get it from. But is after I get pregnant he start to get abusive to me.
“I remember one time when I was close to nine months and a man ask me if I want a taxi and he thought the man like me and he come and push me and I nearly end up in front a car, I miss de car by a inch.
“He use to tell me how he own me and he would beat me and stamp me in me belly, cuff me up but I never use to really say nothing and I never really tell my mother but I think she know wah use to happen.
“And after I get the baby he use to still abuse me, like sometimes when I don’t want have sex, he would hold me down and have sex with me both front and back and when I holler he would push a cloth in me mouth. We never use to live together but I use to go by he and sometimes when he doing that the baby use to be right next to we on the bed.”
She gave the details of those horrifying experiences without showing any emotion. To change the direction of the conversation, I asked about her mother’s reaction to the pregnancy.
“She didn’t do nothing, she said ‘okay’ when I tell she. She would help me, but she would turn around and talk about it,” she answered.
“And I wasn’t ashamed when I get pregnant, although people use to talk I still use to keep my head up,” she said, adding that she was forced to leave school once she became pregnant.
“With my child-father it was not the first time; I was abuse by a relative when I was five years,” she said, looking down at her hands.
Her son had slipped off the chair and wandered off.
I asked her if her mother knew of the abuse.
“Yes, she know, but is just like she didn’t know, because she never really talk about it. It was my grandfather, he is dead now. It was not easy…,” she trailed off.
“And one day when he was going to ask me to forgive him she [her mother] stop him and tell he ‘you done in feeling good, rest you self.’ He dead two days after. He buy poison and drink it. He commit suicide.
“One time when me and me mother had story I tell she that she never even ask who was the first for me and that is she father who tek me virginity and she say ‘Suh wha?’, just like that. I just tell she ‘thank you.’” There was pain in her eyes and she was silent for a while.
I asked her if her son’s father helps to support him.
“No, and I don’t ask he for nothing because if he give anything he does want sex…,” she replied.
I asked her about WAD and she related that she was recommended to the organisation when she gave birth at the hospital.
“I learnt a lot from the programme [WAD]. It has helped me a lot. It helped me to be a better person and I went through a lot of course like first aid, care for the elderly. Last year when I graduate I get a trophy for giving the most peer support,” she said proudly.
What of your dreams? I asked.
“I always dream to become a nurse, but I got to write my CXC first and I am looking to that now. Right now, I don’t work. I use to work but the boss lady wanted me to work in the night and my mother said don’t take no night work because when she want go out she must able to get up and go.
“Right now, my father and my mother help me and WAD does also support but I need to help myself more. When my mother help me she does have to talk about it,” she said.
It was time for her to return to WAD’s training session and as she walked way I felt sad because I was not sure of how bright her future would be. While I believe that with the help of WAD she probably had a chance, her home did not sound like a support base.
But even as I thought of her, I looked at the other faces of the other young women, all teenage mothers, some cradling their babies in their arms.
There was a pregnant 13-year-old sitting on a chair in obvious pain; her mother stood nearby with a worried facial expression. She was headed to the hospital and the child was obviously frightened, her petite body almost doubled over as the pain became more intense.
I left the WAD Office that day with a heavy heart. Girls are continuing to suffer and not enough is being done to help them. Where does the answer lie?