Help Lesotho’s Young Mother Program is a comprehensive approach to capacitate pregnant teenagers and adolescent mothers with strategies and support to cope with the repercussions of being young, often single, mothers. This involves emotional turmoil, dropping out of school, expulsion from family units, lack of support from the father of the child, stigma and rejection from family and community members, poverty, stress and livelihood insecurity. The program fosters capacity in the participants to build their personal resilience, learn to make healthy decisions, and support one another through their challenges.
Over the course of the year-long program, 70 vulnerable young mothers go on a journey of self-discovery. They challenge their beliefs, build their self-worth, become critical thinkers and take steps towards being the young women and mothers they aspire to be.
The program includes monthly training days, participant-led village support groups, individual psychosocial support sessions, the provision of baby-related care items, access to services and referrals such as health clinics and official identity documents, and entrepreneurship training alongside start-up funding for small businesses (learn more about the entrepreneurship component here).
- 100% of young mothers report improved resilience.
- Young mothers begin to treat one another with respect. Whereas at the beginning of the program the young mothers are often very harsh towards each other, at the end they actively listen, empathize and offer meaningful support and suggestions.
- Young mothers begin to treat themselves with more respect. They take better care of themselves, demonstrate patience and grace and feel confident that they have important things to say.
- Young mothers analyze issues with more clarity, introspection and rationality. They are able to stay calm as they discuss issues, rather than turn to anger.
- Young mothers seek sexual and reproductive health services. They want to visit the clinics, access contraception and speak with medical professionals.
- There is a tremendous improvement in intimate partner communication. Young mothers go from feeling helpless and undermined in their relationships to having a real say. They report that together with their partners, they are deciding on contraception and testing for HIV. They also say that they have input in the family’s finances, especially as their entrepreneurial small businesses grow.
- Young mothers report significant improvement in their relationships with their mothers-in-law. In Lesotho, mothers-in-law wield a tremendous amount of – often misused – power and authority. Mothers-in-law are suspicious of their daughters-in-law’s at the beginning of the program, doubting that the program is worth all the time away from home. With time, the mothers-in-law come to appreciate that the improved communication skills, conflict resolution strategies, and overall increase in self-esteem all have positive effects on the family.
Lineo, now 14-years-old, dropped out of school at age 13 when she fell pregnant with her 17-year-old boyfriend. Her parents, already struggling to provide for their family of 8, did not react well to learning of Lineo’s early pregnancy. The boy left the village immediately after she told him that she was pregnant and his family is hostile towards her. She has been hoping to get in contact with him but she was told that he is in South Africa attending school.
At her young age, having a child has made everything difficult. She said, “I sometimes miss being around other people of my age without carrying a baby around”.
Lineo is a strong student. She said that after receiving encouragement to not give up, she is motivated to take her life back and go to school. She said “I am still young and my mother will take care of the baby while I am at school, after attending the session on healthy relationships I feel more supported”. Having learned about domestic violence, HIV/AIDS and healthy relationships, Lineo said she feels lighter and more prepared to navigate her challenges.
Moipone dropped out of school in order to take a job as a nanny. Living away from her family, she sought friendship and companionship from a boy who took interest in her. Within months, Moipone realized she had become pregnant. The father denied paternity and took no responsibility to support his child.
Moipone returned home and was thankful that her family was willing to accept her back in their lives. The family support changed, however, when Moipone fell pregnant a second time. Even though Moipone continues to live at home with her parents, she says their relationship is very tense and they have not been able to resolve their conflicts well. The father of the second child is somewhat involved with raising their daughter, but not as consistently as Moipone hoped he would.
Now, a mother to two young children at 21-years-old, Moipone is feeling more optimistic for her future. “Since I joined the Young mother Program I feel lively, refreshed and I notice that I have to think thoroughly before I make decisions. Right now I have decided to use contraceptives so that I don’t have another child.” Moipone also describes significant improvement in her family relationships as they have all benefitted from understanding good communication skills to express their feelings and listen to others. Moipone’s favourite module was self-esteem because as a church-goer and choir-singer she felt down when people judged her for having children out of wedlock. “After learning about self-esteem, I have learned to take positive things and let negativity go. I have learned to better relate with other people as well. I used to be rude to male people but I have started the journey to drop the attitude and biases of them being mean, unsupportive and unloving.”
Quotes from 2022 Participants:
- “The program assisted me to realise that I am still important as a young mother.”
- “The information on child spacing was very crucial.”
- “Knowing how to share knowledge and skills with other young mothers has been important to us.”
- “The program has made us true leaders.”
- “I only expected to be taught how to take care of my family but I learned a lot more.”
- “I learned patience and being humble at all times.”
- “It is important to care and love to others.”
- “My family and my relationship has improved.”
- “I am now able to ask for forgiveness. My future will be brighter.”
- “I will be a role model for my daughter. I hope her life will not have so much pain as mine.”