Ivanna Waweru, 21, was a teen mom who had an unplanned pregnancy. It was not a smooth journey, and today, she endeavours to support other young women who find themselves in a similar situation. This she does through the Weza Dada Foundation. A mother of one, Ivanna is a student pursuing a degree in Counselling Psychology. This is her story.
“My motherhood journey has not been a walk in the park as I got pregnant when I was 18 years old. It was a tough situation since it was an unplanned pregnancy and right from the beginning, I had to pull myself together since I soon realized I was going to be a single mother. I had to be strong.
When I was seven months pregnant, I enrolled for a diploma course in Counseling Psychology. This happened because my mother insisted that she was only going to support my baby and I as long as I went back to school. I am absolutely grateful for having the support of my mother – I know other teen moms haven’t been as lucky.
My graduation was such an emotional time for me; my baby and my diploma are literally twins! Now I’m pursuing my degree, and I have to balance my studies and being a mom to my little boy. It certainly hasn’t been a walk in the park, but as time goes by it gets easier and I acquire better coping skills.
What Inspired you to start Weza Dada?
While my mom caters for my financial needs well enough, I started feeling the need to do something to earn some money as I grow towards becoming financially independent. I have started small businesses since my son was born –some have not succeeded while others are still ongoing.
Also, at some point I realized that my emotional challenges were still stressing me very much. Young motherhood can be tough, and many times I would feel alone, overwhelmed and just too tired! Sometimes I hated myself and I honestly wasn’t fully functioning. There were moments when I didn’t want to meet friends and just I felt so unworthy.
As I was going through this, I thought of the young moms out there who didn’t have the kind of financial support that I had, and were also having to deal with the kind of emotional stress that I was going through. I started feeling the need to reach out to them.
It also happened that my studies in Counselling Psychology had ignited a passion in me for working with people. In fact, when I undertook my academic research at Kenyatta National Hospital where I focused on the topic of challenges faced by young mothers, I especially developed an intense soft spot for young mothers, because I could empathize.
This experience fueled my decision to start an initiative which I hoped would work towards assisting young mothers –giving them hope and helping them improve their lives.
So I started connecting with young moms through social media; on WhatsApp and Facebook and with time, I took these interactions offline to where we’ve been able to meet up physically. That’s the story behind Weza Dada’s beginning.
Weza Dada’s Activities
So far, we have had three successful meetings: at Uhuru park and two at Le 63 Lounge at Uhuru Gardens. During these events, we’ve had different speakers share their experiences whilst encouraging us. They speakers were Thitu Kariba, a wellness and fitness coach who spoke about ‘Young moms taking control of their lives’, and Wairimu Kiragu, a life coach who spoke on ‘Courage and authentic living’.
During our third meet up, we trained young moms on making shaggy and pompom mats, because we want to encourage them to engage in their own income-generating activities in a bid to be financially independent.
Through my interaction with young moms, I’ve come to realize that many young moms’ problems are compounded when they have to rely on other people for their subsistence. But when they are able to go to school, get employment or run their own businesses, they are able to better support themselves and their children. In the coming months, I hope to have more business empowerment opportunities for young moms while at the same time encouraging them to advance their education.
We also continue to have our discussions on our online platforms where we encourage, share and learn from one another.
What have been Your Notable Sucesses?
We have reached over 200 young mothers in Kenya through our social media platforms and events. We have also had young mothers reconcile their lives and have a better outlook about life.
Through this project, I have been able to connect with great minds –women mentors –who have been helped me gain insightful, eye-opening experiences.
We have also managed to recruit volunteers; we now have four committed volunteers and I’m sure this will improve the quality of delivery of services during projects, trainings and events.
What challenges have you experienced so far?
Finances largely. I have a plan in mind for the young mothers but due to lack of funds I have not been able to execute them. We sometimes have to charge the young mothers to attend the events we organize, and many times they don’t have the money to pay, yet they need the information we share during these forums. We don’t turn away any young mom though.
I’m however hoping by introducing trainings and actualizing some income generating activities, we will sustain our projects and activities.
Also, coordinating people with different personalities from different walks of life can be difficult and sometimes I want to give up but my passion for the betterment of young moms keeps me going.
What are your Bigger Plans for Weza Dada Foundation?
I intend for this initiative to grow into an international organization that focuses on girl and women empowerment. I hope to see more women realize better life outcomes financially, emotionally and psychologically. I hope to see these women in turn become mentors and serve as inspirations to other girls, young women, and young moms.
Soon, we’ll start outreach programmes for young girls in high schools to enlighten, educate and mentor them on topical issues facing them, and how they can overcome some of the challenges involved.
Motherhood has taught me that no matter what happens in life, you can shape your destiny. You need to get up, dust yourself and trudge on with your best foot forward. God is the best support system and prayer really goes a long way in helping one overcome their challenges.
I have found out that there is truth in the statement that ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. I am one strong young woman who believes that nothing is impossible. I also know that loving yourself is key in achieving your goals. No matter the situation you find yourself in, the sky is the limit; dream, commit yourself and work hard. Find your purpose and live it.
Ivanna can be reached on email@example.com
If you know of another young woman who is undertaking a women and girl empowerment initiative, then let me know via firstname.lastname@example.org and I will help tell their story.
Mummy Tales is a platform dedicated to empowering its readers on different aspects of womanhood and motherhood. Read more motherhood experiences of Kenyan moms here. Connect with Mummy Tales on: FACEBOOK l YOU TUBE l INSTAGRAM l TWITTER