For Awomgile Mngcobo, a 21-year-old mother, the journey of motherhood with her nine-month-old began with many challenges. Along with the struggle of providing for her child, Awongile also had the judgement of others to contend with.

“In my community and in black society, people make you feel like you must be ashamed and that you should have never done this to yourself,” she says. “But through Rays of Hope I realised that I am actually so proud of the mum I am.”

The Young Mums Support Group is an initiative that was started by Rays of Hope in March 2021, with the goal of offering teen and young mothers the support they need to raise their children and break generational cycles of child abandonment and abuse.

“The programme offers a wide range of support for the young moms, including counselling, parenting skills and help with building a bond between mum and baby as well as her other children,” says Bertha Muchadeyi, The Vulnerable programme manager.

“The mums are also given career guidance to encourage them to go back to school and find gainful employment. We also connect them to job opportunities and learnerships as well as set them up with workplace experience through volunteer positions at our own offices.”

With over 23,000 teenage pregnancies recorded by the Gauteng Department of Health between April 2020 and March 2021 alone, there is a real need for intervention, particularly in previously disadvantaged communities where access to information and protection may is not always within reach.

“We want to bring hope and restore the dignity of these young women so that they rise beyond their limitations and fulfil their true potential in life. We want to raise a generation of conscious mothers who have their children’s best interests at heart,” says Bertha.

Awomgile adds that programmes like these are crucial for young women and girls who find themselves having to mature and find their feet as mothers quickly in order to take on the responsibilities of being a parent. “The thing I want the most is for my baby to have the things I couldn’t have, so I know she’ll never be sad in life, she’ll do better than me,” she says.