Single motherhood increases in Nakuru as men and women walk out

Many men, especially during Covid-19, abandoned their families because they were unable to provide for them.

In Summary

• Social workers say woman representatives should be given the express task of reducing single motherhood.

•  While marriage was once supposed to mean forever, today, both men and women feel free to walk out.

In the heart of Nakuru, profound social transformation is taking shape.

The rise in single motherhood is not just a statistic but a solid and vivid narrative and a demographic reshaping the community's fabric.

Through candid street interviews and compelling personal stories, we delve into the myriad reasons behind this growing phenomenon.

MA, a 28-year-old mother of two, shares a poignant glimpse into her life.

"I lost my job as what during the Covid-19 pandemic, and finding new employment has been extremely difficult," she says.

"Without a stable income, many men feel overwhelmed and abandon their families, leaving women to manage on their own." 

Economic instability has made it challenging for many men to fulfil traditional provider roles, resulting in strained relationships and separations.

Women like MA are thrust into single parenthood not by choice, but by circumstance, grappling with the daunting task of sustaining their families alone.

Njoroge Paul, a local community leader, sheds light on the shifting cultural landscape.

"In the past, marriage was seen as a lifelong commitment, but today's youth view relationships differently," he observed.

"There is less stigma associated with single motherhood now, and women feel more empowered to leave unhealthy relationships."

This evolution in societal attitudes has empowered women to prioritise their well-being and that of their children over maintaining dysfunctional relationships.

As perceptions of marriage and family evolve, more single-parent households emerge, reflecting a broader cultural shift.

In contrast with the past, when elders were involved in such matters, if a son of their clan was found culpable, they forced him to marry the woman, or pay a fine in goats.

That, according to Njoroge, was a way of protecting children and giving them a sense of belonging. Nowadays, youngsters rubbish and belittle clan issues, and yet the requirement is even Biblical.    

Esther Wambui, a high school teacher, underscores the critical gap in sex education.

The lack of comprehensive sexual health education leaves many young women unprepared to make informed decisions about reproductive health, resulting in a higher rate of single motherhood.

Regrettably, she said had she known her first born daughter might fall in the same (pregnancy) trap, she would have done better.

Currently, she takes it upon herself to go the extra mile and educate the girls, wherever she finds them.

Jane Kemunto, a social worker, at the Kwa Rhonda informal settlement, highlights the insidious role of substance abuse.

"Alcohol and drug abuse are prevalent in many areas of Nakuru, leading to irresponsible behaviour and broken families," she said.

“Many men struggle with addiction and abandon their responsibilities, leaving women to cope alone."

The destructive impact of substance abuse on relationships is profound, often leading to neglect, domestic violence and separation, which further fuels the rise in single motherhood.

FM, a survivor of domestic violence, bravely recounts her ordeal.

"I endured years of abuse before I decided to leave for the sake of my children," she recalled.

"There were no support systems in place to help women like me."

The widespread prevalence of gender-based violence and the lack of adequate support services force many women into single motherhood to escape abusive relationships.

FM's story is a testament to the resilience and courage of many single mothers in Nakuru.  

Despite the pain of abandonment, a number of women have succeeded and brought up extremely successful children.

However, the fathers usually mend their relationships with them, and since a father can’t be rejected, they are accepted back. They give little thought to the feelings of mothers.

Amid these challenges, glimmers of hope emerge.

NGOs and government initiatives are addressing these issues head-on.

Programmes aimed at economic empowerment, substance abuse rehabilitation, and support for domestic violence victims are beginning to make a tangible difference.

Much more needs to be done, however, to curb the rising rate of single motherhood in Nakuru and beyond. For example, the Jesus is Alive Missionaries tailor programmes for single mothers and pay school fees for their children.

The increasing rate of single motherhood is a complex issue driven by economic difficulties, changing cultural norms, lack of education, substance abuse and gender-based violence. The voices of those affected provide a deeper understanding of the struggles and resilience of single mothers.

Addressing root causes requires concerted effort from the community, government and non-governmental organisations to create a more supportive environment for all families.

And, social worker Kemunto’s appeal to the government is that the Women Representatives should be given the express role of reducing single motherhood n their constituencies. Those who succeed would be rewarded and recognised by their contribution to society.

“Relying on NGOs isn’t a solution,” she concluded.

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