On 25th October 2020, I graduated with a degree in Governance and Development at MS Training Center for Development and Cooperation in Arusha, this was one of the happiest days of my life, I was the first in my immediate and extended family to achieve such a level of education. This was a big achievement for me as a woman since the majority of girls in my community do not have anyone to look at as an inspiration, many people congratulated me on my achievement and it was a day that I will never forget.
A few days after the graduation ceremony and the celebrations, I began reflecting on my personal life. During my reflection, the most common theme that came up was the many challenges and pain that I have been through in my life. I had a dream like most young girls do: study, finish high school, get to university, find a well-paying job, get married, and settle down, however, my journey to getting my degree did not go through a straight line.
I am the last born in a family of 4, by the time I was 12 years old I had lost both my parents. By the time I joined high school, I was determined that education will be the only thing that I can depend on to achieve my life’s dream. I thank God because since I did not have parents, I was very lucky to find a couple of friends who decided to sponsor my education until I finished O level, and later another friend decided to sponsor my university education.
People close to me, both family and friends, had very high expectations of me and the direction that my life had taken since losing my parents. While in university I was working part-time and studying at the same time, I felt loved and cared for until the day I discovered that I was pregnant. My world was turned upside down. First, my immediate family members were so disappointed with me mainly because I had brought shame to the family by getting pregnant outside marriage. Some close friends whom I thought I could rely on started avoiding me, this affected me emotionally and mentally. I began to feel that I have let down those closest to me, it led to feelings of isolation, this caused me to go through depression, and at some point, I contemplated suicide.
I was facing a lot of pressure to get married before people knew that I was pregnant, postponed finishing my degree, I also thought of getting an abortion, but in the end, I felt that I cannot go through all these options, tension started to build between me and my boyfriend. All through these challenges, it dawned on me that people always come to me with their problems and I would give them counsel and advice on things like career, relationships, family issues. But now I am facing painful moments in my life, and tables have been turned and I had to apply the advice I have been giving people to myself.
With encouragement from a few friends, I decided to keep the pregnancy and also finish my education in time. I found comfort in continuing with the pursuit of my education because each day I will have something occupying my mind instead of just staying at home. This meant between Monday and Friday I had to use public means to and from school, a journey that takes up to one hour one way. Luckily my pregnancy was due during the semester break, however a month and a half after giving birth I had to go back and finish two last semesters before graduating. I am grateful to the school management because they provided me with a place to nurse my child, this went on for four months. At the same time, my relationship with my boyfriend started to get physically violent. During the pregnancy and after giving birth, I was a happy person on the outside, but inside I was very sad feeling unappreciated and unhappy.
On October 25th, 2020 my daughter was 13 months and it was my graduation day, by this time I had found my footing in life and had to acknowledge that, being the first in my family was exciting to me but not necessary to my family members because no one has been where I am and I have to own the joy and happiness of the achievement and hope that my daughter nephews and nieces will see this achievement as something realistic when their time comes.
After this period a close friend confided in me that she has decided to get out of an abusive relationship yet she was pregnant, she was going through the same issues I went through emotional stress, family rejection, and abuse, she told me what motivated her to make that decision was seeing me going through the same experience and came out still standing.
Listening to her made me sad and also inspired me to share my story and help others going through similar situations especially teenage mothers being rejected by family and friends because they made a mistake and got pregnant while in school and not being given a second chance to achieve their dream of being the first in the family like me. In most cases, girls are the ones facing consequences in such situations. I learned that early interventions to both boys and girls on awareness on life skills results in postponement of early sexual encounters focus on education and better-informed society which in the end will give both girls and boys a chance to achieve their full potential in life. But when a mistake happens in life as it happened to me, someone should be given a second chance by their family and the community so that they can heal and pick up the pieces and continue to build up their dream.