A Tribute to the Mothers of Nairobi’s Informal Settlements
For many, motherhood is a time filled with bliss. However, for some it brings about traumatic consequences. Learn how Margaret, Mary, and Juliebeth overcome adversity for the betterment of themselves and their growing families.
Having a baby is often accompanied by feelings of bliss and unbridled joy and can be an exciting, overwhelming time in a woman’s life – though it’s not always diaper-cakes and baby showers for the women of Nairobi’s informal settlements.
According to UNICEF’s Kenya Profile, the mortality rate of children under five is 4.6% while infant mortality sits at 3.4%. These numbers are devastating, especially when so many deaths are preventable with proper pre-and-antenatal care. It’s easy to create an image of motherhood that is full of baby coos and first steps and forget how lucky many of us are to experience motherhood in safe, clean, and supportive environments.
So today we celebrate all of the moms who did not have the smoothest introduction into motherhood – but are stronger for it. We celebrate the mothers who advocate for themselves and their children to pave the way for a brighter future. Today we meet and celebrate the moms of CFK and what it means to be a mother in Kibera.
Margaret’s journey into motherhood was far from conventional. After learning that she was pregnant she spent all of her resources, time and money, trying to provide proper prenatal care for herself and the baby. Shortly after her pregnancy began, it was over; Margaret lost the baby due to a lack of proper medical care.
However, upon discovering she was expecting again Margaret began reaching out to a variety of people – she wasn’t going to lose her baby twice.
“During my second pregnancy I contacted so many sources…” Everyone tried their best to help, but no one could provide the medical care she needed to ensure a healthy pregnancy, “…luckily a good friend of mine told me to join them in one of the care group sessions so that I could hear what they are being taught.”
Margaret’s Care Group is comprised of neighborhood women who promote essential maternal health interventions both in clinics and at home. The group introduced Margaret to the importance of such interventions that contributed to a heathy delivery and better health overall.
Margaret’s determination and commitment to a healthy pregnancy, along with continued guidance from her Care Group provided a safe space for her baby grow into a healthy and happy two-year-old.
Mary’s life revolves around the wellbeing of her three kids. After 10 years of successfully parenting her two older children she had no concerns when Villance joined the family. Now 19 months old, this vibrant and curious little girl didn’t have an easy introduction into Kiberan life. Mary was certainly aware that her daughter was a little different, “…I could see that she was smaller than her siblings used to be…,” but struggled to hear that her baby was categorized as “severely malnourished.”
Mary and Villance were immediately referred to the Lishe Bora Nutrition Center and placed in a series of educational trainings focused on nutrition. Villance participated in a feeding program at the center and was dropped off every morning for three months. She was provided with adequate nutrition and supplements and monitored by nutritionists on staff to ensure she was hitting appropriate milestones. Villance made strides quickly her mother told us,“…by the third week you could see the strength in her body as she played with other children in the neighborhood.” Meanwhile, Mary was hard at work attending trainings, any trainings she could find – to ensure that she was properly educated in providing a safe, healthy upbringing for her entire family.
Within these sessions, Mary found a community of other parents struggling the same way she was. Parents were referred to other programs within CFK that touched other important health concerns. After three months of intense training for Mary and care for Villance the duo graduated from the center with a clean bill of health! When we recently checked in with Mary and found she was employed at the Lishe Bora Center and taking financial literacy classes to continue propelling her family forward.
Imagine being expelled from school and kicked out of your home because of a positive pregnancy test. This nightmare became reality for Juliebeth during her third year of high school. At only 16 years old, hopes of a university level education were now impossible and her relationship with her mother has become strained at best.
After being subjected to gossip and ridicule by her peers at school, forced to take a pregnancy test, and subsequently kicked out of the program, Julie thought she had hit rock bottom. “I honestly thought that was my lowest…,” she reflected back on the moments before her mother made her pack her belongings and leave home for good, “…to date I still remember the hurt I felt.”
Luckily Julie’s aunt took her in temporarily and worked to help mother and daughter begin to mend their relationship. Her mother agreed to let Julie move back in on the condition that Julie would cover all of the baby’s expenses – including food. Since the father denied any responsibility Julie was on her own.
When Julie’s daughter was almost two years old, she found consistent work without any hope of going back to school. Her mother had made it clear that education was no longer a priority, so she began cleaning houses and washing clothes to provide for her daughter, “…thus far it has helped me do [what I can] for her and looking at her now I only feel love and joy not the pain and regret I felt initially.”
Eight months ago, after two years of hard work and parenting, Julie was given the opportunity to enroll in school through CFK. Her busy schedule and love of cooking made a vocational skills course in catering the perfect option. Julie is able to work in the evenings and on weekends, while taking classes during the day, securing a better future for herself and her daughter.