I had an interesting conversation with a young woman, Isabel, the other day. She is expecting a baby and is wanting to marry her boyfriend/father of her child. Her mother and her sisters do not want her to marry. They want her to stay at home, they will help her raise the child, and would just let the father visit sometimes. Isabel´s own father was violent, and abandoned the family when the children were young. Her mother does not think marriage is a good idea. Isabel, on the other hand, having grown up without a father does not want the same for her little one.
As I think of the 30 girls who attend our club in the village, perhaps half of them are growing up with their father present. Some of those who are not do not even know who their father is. Others have more than one half-sibling either living with them or with another parent.
Many of the children who have sponsors need one because of absent parents. 5 teenage girls have dropped out of the sponsorship programme (and school) because of pregnancy in the past couple of years. One was only 13 years old. Another now has two children by different fathers, and her mother does most of the child care.
While this may not be much different to other parts of the world, the things that strike me are first that it is considered normal for men to sow their wild oats (all their lives), and the women basically put up with it, the infections and babies that result. The women still have very little power, as they lack education hence earning power. Secondly, no one is scandalised by underage pregnancies or reports the men who are over 18 who get 13 and 14 year olds pregnant. Thirdly, fragmented, mixed, broken homes are considered normal. The family unit of father, mother and children is often no longer aspired to.
The government has tightened up on enforcing the laws regarding fathers paying maintenance for their children. Women are beginning to see that they can successfully claim money to raise their children. Many, however, still do not report the absent fathers. There is still a fear of causing a fuss and the possible repercussions from other family members.
I believe the girls in our community need to know that they have a choice. They can choose to study and better themselves before they have children. They can choose to be able to earn a living wage and have a means of supporting themselves, before they have dependents. They don´t have to be part of a man´s never-ending infidelity. They can expect more. That is why I am teaching them what the Bible says about themselves, their place in society and family. They need to know how much God loves them, to value themselves and to aspire to God´s standards. They need to know how to stand up for themselves and what they believe.
I pray that as we explore these themes together some will be inspired to believe in their Heavenly Father, to believe in themselves, and to live according to His loving guidance.
|What does the future hold for these girls?|