While we were in Zambia, we had a chance to meet a very empowering young woman by the name of Jane**. When Jane was younger, she too found herself in a vulnerable situation as a teen mother trying to finish her education. While her circumstances are not necessarily unique, especially for young women in Zambia, the way she persevered and finished her schooling is something to brag about.
We first met Jane when she burst onto the scene at one of our Girl’s Club sessions. Romanzi told us she had met Jane while she was volunteering with another non-profit, and Jane was very good at coming up with games and getting everyone involved. As soon she arrived, she captivated the girls. Jane was energetic, loud, fun and our girls were excited about the games and activities she brought with her.
After Girl’s Club, we got a chance to get to know Jane and learn more about her story. She told us when she was 17 years old, she became pregnant with her son. At the time she was in 10th or 11th grade and had been doing pretty well in school, but she knew things would become more difficult as her pregnancy went on. Many girls who become pregnant while attending school rarely return once they become overwhelmed with taking care of a child. What makes Jane unique is that after she had her son, she did take some time off to care for him. What makes her unique however, is that once she was able to, Jane went right back to school.
One of the first things she will admit is that it was definitely hard. She was not only faced with taking care of her child while trying to finish school and graduate, but she now had to face the stereotypes of being a teen mom in her school.
Jane attended school through her pregnancy and only took time off to have her son and take care of him for the first year. During her pregnancy she admits she got a lot of “looks” and heard a lot of whispers behind her as she walked to and from classes.
One day, before she left school to have her son, Jane told us she confronted a group of boys who had been gossiping about her and her growing belly. She had heard them whisper “Look at her, she’s pregnant! Why is she here?” She told us she was fed up with the staring and the whispers, and finally said to them “Hey! Listen to me! I am in school because I want to finish my education! I want to stay in school and just because I am pregnant does not mean I can’t learn.”
She told us the boys were a bit shocked by what she said, but more importantly, they stopped gossiping about her. In fact, she says they even respected her, not only for her strong desire to stay in school, but for also standing up for herself.
Jane continued to work hard not only during her pregnancy but after the birth of her son as well. When she returned to school, she was allowed to leave for an hour each day to go home and care for her son. She admits that her mother helped her as well, but she was ultimately the one getting up in the middle of the night when he cried on top of doing homework, and then also having to miss any classes during the day so she could go home and take of him.
Jane ended up graduating high school and was able to continue her education beyond that into college. Her son is a healthy, happy, growing boy that she intends to raise right and make sure he stays in school. She is not only proving to be a great role model for her son, she is also a fantastic role model for our girls at strength in sisters. She is an example of perseverance, determination, and grit. When things got hard Jane didn’t give up, instead she buckled down when it came to school work and stood up for herself when she needed to. Those are the traits we hope our girls take to heart and apply in their life every day. We are not only happy to have Jane work with Strength in Sisters, we are proud to have her in the lives of our girls.
**Name changed for privacy