Catholic Entity in Kenya Transforming Lives of Young Mothers in “parenthood” Initiative

Deborah Nyambach, one of the young mothers who has benefited from the trainings by the Nairobi Central Zone Self Help Group initiative. Credit: ACI Africa

Young mothers in the Archdiocese of Nairobi in Kenya are benefiting from a life skills program spearheaded by members of the Nairobi Central Zone Self Help Group, a Catholic entity “regulated” by Caritas Nairobi.

Dubbed “parenthood in childhood”, the initiative that is targeting girls between the age of 14 and 18 within the environments of Our Lady Queen of Peace South B Parish was started in June 2021 as one of the projects of the Catholic entity.

In an interview with ACI Africa, the chairman of the initiative said that the program came as a response to Kenya’s government 2020 report that indicated an increase in teenage pregnancies  during the COVID-19 period.

“The program empowers less privileged people in society. Last year, we decided to focus on parenthood in childhood. The initiative was as a response to the government’s report that many young girls got pregnant during the COVID-19 period,” Peter Kamau Gacheru told ACI Africa during the June 25 interview.

Mr. Kamau added, “We decided that, as a group within the Archdiocese of Nairobi, to start this program so that we can journey with our young girls. We are targeting teenage mothers between the age of 14 and 18 and also school going girls that are pregnant or have already given birth.”


Mr. Peter Kamau Centre and Lilian Bosire left at one of the meetings with beneficiaries of the Nairobi Central Zone Self Help Group. Credit: Courtesy Photo

He said that the girls who are subjected to “all kinds of trauma” from people including their parents and other family members are provided with the training that helps them overcome their past challenges.

The chairman of the parenthood in childhood initiative told ACI Africa that through monthly meetings with beneficiaries, the program gives a safe space where real life issues are discussed, experiences are shared, and possible way forwards are explored. 

Through sharing their life experiences, Mr. Kamau said, the girls come to accept themselves and gain confidence to face life, some returning to school to pursue their studies.

He highlighted the process involved saying, “The follow up is done once a month…and is done by our counselors from the social welfare office. When we notice a challenge in one of the girls, we refer them to the counselors who follow up with their parents in the course of the month.”

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Young mothers in a discussion with counsellors. Credit: Courtesy Photo

He added, “We meet once every month but in between, we have people who engage with them. The young mothers are divided into three groups and each group has a counselor.”

In a separate interview with the secretary of the Nairobi Central Zone Self Help Group, empowerment of the young mothers through training was underscored.

“The empowerment is basically through training; we train them on self-awareness; to have etiquette, confidence; we also train them on conflict resolution because we realized that as young mothers, some of them did not have a lot of confidence,” Lilian Bosire told ACI Africa during the June 25 interview.

Ms. Bosire said that the girls enrolled in the program battle with guilt as they feel that they have brought shame to their respective parents, and that the society looks down upon them for having conceived at a young age.


“When they come here, we give them hope that even if you are a young mother there is still tomorrow; you can go back to school; you can do something with your life,” she said in reference to the beneficiaries of the parenthood in childhood initiative, adding, “We tell them to consider some priorities after their babies have grown a little bit so that they can continue with their lives.”

The secretary of the Nairobi Central Zone Self Help Group said that the young girls are also trained in matters finance in view of empowering them economically.

Young mothers sharing experiences at the monthly meeting. Credit: Courtesy Photo

“On the economic side, we noticed that when they came, some of them were just from school and very young; some were as young as 14 and others 19,” she said, adding that most of the girls did not have an idea of what they wanted to do. 

She added, “After boosting their confidence through training, we oriented them to some income generating activities such as soap making, hairdressing, doing some businesses such as cooking chips.”

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Asked about challenges in the process of realizing the parenthood in childhood initiative, Ms. Bosire told ACI Africa highlighted getting volunteers to train the young girls and financial constraints.

An episode where one of the young mothers lost her life in the process of giving birth was also a challenge, she recalled, and narrated, “One of the girls died while giving birth; she left behind twins; so, we have tried to hand hold the family.”

“To keep her memories alive, every time we have the program, we take some token to the family,” Ms. Bosire further said in reference to the late mother of the twins.

In another episode, she recalled, “two children who were born during the program passed away. It was a blow to us because we not only wanted to grow with the children, but we also wanted to bond with them.”

In another interview with ACI Africa, a volunteer counselor said that he has witnessed reconciliation between some of the girls and their parents.

“The Parish Priest here at our Lady Queen of peace invited me to help this group as a counselor. I first resisted but when I found out that it was a good initiative for the parish, I accepted,” Fr. Francois Xavier Bigeziki said in the June 25 interview.

Fr. Francis Xavier one of the volunteer counselors addressing young mothers during the monthly meeting held June 25 at Our Lady Queen of Peace parish. Credit: ACI Africa

Fr. Bigeziki added, “I have witnessed some of the girls reconciling with their parents and going back to school and they are actually proud of their parents.” 

The Rwandan-born member of the Missionaries of Africa called upon parents “to listen to their children in the unfortunate event that they come home pregnant, especially when they are still schooling.”

He explained, “This is because parents are the first school of the children and if this school is spoiled then as counselors, there is nothing we can do. It is impossible for me to help the child without the mother.” 

In another interview with ACI Africa, Christine Nyaboke, a parent of one of the young mothers thanked the officials of the Nairobi Central Zone Self Help Group, saying, “It is like this program came for me.”

Credit: Courtesy Photo

Narrating her ordeal, Ms. Nyaboke said that she felt betrayed by her daughter who got pregnant at the age of 15, while preparing to sit for her primary exams. She told ACI Africa during the June 25 intervew, “As a parent, I felt so bad that I didn't even want to see her.”

“When this program came, she was invited and trained by the coordinators of the young mothers,” Ms. Nyaboke recounted, adding that her daughter accepted the condition and carried the pregnancy until she gave birth while still schooling. 

She continued in reference to her daughter, “The program helped her so much that she started saving from every little she could get. When she gave birth, she agreed to go back to school as I take care of her child; she is now in form two.”

ACI Africa spoke to two young mothers who expressed their appreciation for the parenthood in childhood initiative, saying that it has transformed their lives and given them confidence in life.

Christine Akinyi, who gave birth while in her fourth year in secondary school said that her patents threatened to throw her out of the house.

“When I heard about this program through an announcement in the village, I was compelled to join and I was trained,” Ms. Akinyi told ACI Africa, adding that since she was enrolled, “I gained self-confidence as I can now stand before people and speak.”

Recalling how the program boosted her self-esteem, Ms. Akinyi said, “I urge those behind this program to continue with it so that they can keep helping girls in the same situation just like we are in.”

On her part, Deborah Nyambach, a mother of two who joined the program last year said that she also got her first child when she was about to sit for her form four exams. 

Some of the young mothers attending the monthly meeting in Kenya. Credit: ACI Africa

Ms. Nyambach recalled the regrets her parents had at the time, feeling they had wasted their money on paying for her secondary school fees.

“I have benefited so much from the program; I have been trained and I have skills of life. As a young mother, I accepted my situation and was able to go home and reestablish the bond with my parents because we had been trained on how to do it,” she told ACI Africa during the June 25 interview.

Ms. Nyambach added, “Before this program, I never used to save, but after being taught on how to save, I opened a fixed account and I am now doing some savings.”

“I aspire to open a hairdressing business because I am a salonist so that my children can go to school and don’t make the same mistakes that I made,” she said.

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.