MOTHERHOOD AT 13 with Busisiwe Nombulelo Jiyane

Motherhood is supposed to be a moment of joy and pleasure for every women whose is in their reproductive age. In recent years, girls who are not yet in their coming-of-age phase are becoming mothers barely reaching a stage of teenage-hood. Statistics South Africa in 2016 recorded 136 996 (13,9%) child registered birth to mothers who are between the ages of 10 and 19 years old. As it is societally expected that young women between the age of 13 and 21 are in the stages that is defined as coming of age, merely meaning the transition from childhood and adulthood. The transition period is when girls who have reached puberty stage experience changes on their body, this is a critical phase in their lives where they start their menstrual cycle and also become exposed to sexual experiences knowingly and unknowingly. Thus at age 13 girls can bear a child. There are various reasons that associated with young motherhood based on social determinants, which include but not limited to parentless-ness, sexual exploration, sexual violence (rape), societal influence, male owner and peer pressure. 

Motherhood at 13 is a documentary project that interrogated the reasons, mindset, and perspective of young mothers through their daily lives. Young mothers between the ages of 13 to 17 from different localities in Soweto will be followed where their daily lives are a focus of the project.

Busisiwe Nombulelo Jiyane (18) a mother to Lwandle Jiyane (2) her world changed when she found out she is pregnant at the age of 14 going 15-years-old. Just like that her family structure and friendship changed, when she had to leave the Township she grew up in and start a new life in a new area as a pregnant teenager. Busisiwe grew up in Orange Farm, a township 40km away from Johannesburg, when she was pregnant she moved to go leave with her paternal grandmother in a Township called Zola 1, Soweto. Society has strong views about teenage mothers and Busi had to move, change her environment because of the comments that where not positive toward her. Our society has certain beliefs, ethics and morals that they continue to hold women with, while men are never held  on the same standards. Women continue to navigate through these difficult morals, ethics and standard, Busisiwe decided to go leave with her grandmother because she was starting to feel uncomfortable with how the community was looking at her and her friendship dynamics changed while she was pregnancy.

Motherhood At 13

Busisiwe a young women who is goal driven and has showed a sense of responsibility through her earlier teenage years found herself transitioning from teenage-hood to motherhood. This experience of motherhood transitioned her from being a free young girl to embracing a lifetime experience of motherhood. Her world moved from taking responsibility of her education to taking care of her young beautiful daughter Lwandle.

Her world is filled with not only getting herself ready for school but also getting her child ready for school. Her world if not only filled with making sure she performs well with her academics but that she also has to make sure her child is healthy and well taken care off. As much as teenage pregnancy is a taboo subject to discuss in our community, Busi is also one of young women in the township who are doing all they can to make it against all odds.

“It takes a village to raise a child” a well known proverb. We were raised not only by our parents but our neighbors, grandmothers and aunts will take turns looking after us while our parents navigate through their working life. In this digital age does it still “Take a village to raise a child?’ Young women are coming out in numbers telling their stories of being sexually abuse by a close family or a neighbor, mothers now feel safe when they can watch over their child on their own. With teenage pregnancy young mothers need more social support, from family members, neighbors, friends, and their partners and their families (partners). Busiswe when she fell pregnant her life changed from that of being a free teenager to a teenager whose life evolve around her child.

“I wake up in the morning prepare myself than wake my daughter up and prepare her for day-care. When I come back from school I have an hour to myself before I go fetch my daughter from day care.”  That is Busisiwe daily routine and on weekends she take full responsibilities of looking after her daughter.

Busisiwe currently leaves with her extended family sharing a four-room house with outside rooms with more than 10 people. Her father was wrong fully accused and he is currently serving time in prison. Her mother who leaves in Orange Farm about 45KM from where Busi stays helps her financially by sending money every month.

“When I was pregnant I never thought that I would be able to take good care of my baby but after she was born I did the best I could to take care of her, even my grandmother told me that I am the best in taking care of my baby”

The only time we get to meet Busisiwe outside motherhood is when she is at school. On school grounds she is like any other teenager pursuing her dreams and aiming to finish high school. At school we get to meet Busi who laughs, engage and very confidant.

Currently Busi is doing well at school despised being a young mother, she is one of the class captains and performing very well in her academics. “I am grateful because I got an opportunity to go back to school so that I can have a bright future and pursue my dreams rather than staying at home”

Busisiwe as a young woman she wears different hats that of being a mother, a daughter, a high school girl but when she is at school she becomes a young girl full of hope and dreams. Pursuing her education and doing the best to be the person she sought to be before the baby.

Motherhood At 13 is an ongoing projects that hope to engage the community and the society at larger to shift their mindset and understand better the struggles, challenges, joys and love that these young mothers have for themselves and their children. As much as the society has its own convictions to the subject of teenage pregnancy, it is very important to offer sympathy and empathy to young mothers. The project also aims to represent these young mothers in a strong image of femininity, beauty and grace.

Busisiwe said “I would like to be remembered as a woman who loved her children unconditionally because I plan to have two more children in my life. Also be remembered as a women who respected everyone and loved her family”

All images are under copyright © Cebisile Mbonani