Teen Moms in Mathare Slums

Rachael Ouko
This documentary short from Rachael Ouko interviews teen moms living in the Mathare Slums of Nairobi, Kenya, where teen motherhood is common. The mothers discuss the challenges and prejudice they face as young mothers, and what they have done to overcome these challenges and thrive for their children.



Being a teen mom is common in Mathare. Some teen moms are actually married, others are single moms, and others married, then separated. People see teen moms as a burden and a bad influence to other girls. Many teen moms are lonely, and sometimes men try to take advantage of you. As a teen mom, sometimes you don’t fit in society.

I wanted to tell a story of teen mothers who have children and survive, despite the many challenges they face. I tell this story because I want the world to know--especially mothers of teen moms, and their daughters--that getting pregnant at a young age is a big challenge, but it is not the end of the world. I also tell this story because I myself am a teen mom.

I got pregnant at 19 years old, and gave birth in 2003. When I realized I was pregnant, I was so ashamed that I could not tell anyone or even ask for help. I was so embarrassed because I had so many dreams of bringing my family out of poverty.

The only thing I could think to do was to have an abortion, and to do it before my mum realized I was pregnant. So, one evening I bought 30 paracetamol pills and swallowed them, hoping that the baby would come out. That night, I was so weak that I thought I would die. In the morning I was still sick, and I couldn’t go to school. My mum told me to go to the hospital, and I did. This is when she learned of the pregnancy. I could not tell her the father of my baby and so she sent me away. I went to my sister’s house--she welcomed me even though her husband did not like the idea of me staying there. I was so ashamed that I didn’t go to the clinic for check ups, and I spent my entire pregnancy reading and sleeping, barely leaving the house.

Eventually I returned home. My mum was not happy; she left and went to a rural area for three months. During my seventh month, I found myself alone and without money. I started selling groundnuts on the roadside just so I could earn money for maternal bills and clothes for my baby. Even with this work, I didn’t save enough to go to the hospital when it was time to deliver, so I gave birth in the house with the help of our neighbor, who was also a midwife and charged me very little.

The struggle continued after I gave birth. When my child was two years, I wanted to go back to school. My mum believed in me and paid part of my school fee; the rest I worked for to earn myself. I used to go to school on foot so that I could save the transport fee that my father provided for my baby’s milk and soap. In the evening I came home and breastfed my baby until I finished my “o” level education. I didn’t perform that well but at least I made my mum proud.

I am now done with my education, and luckily I got a job. I can afford to send my child to a government school, and can pay for the house we are living in.

About The Artist 

Rachael Ouko is 27 years old and a mother of two. Rachael is an avid documentary filmmaker and photographer; her work has been shown in Kenya and Europe. She has worked on several films, including Unsung Heroes and Street Urchins, and is passionate about producing and directing. She is administrator with the Mwelu Foundation, a self-help group in Mathare Valley slum in Nairobi that works with young people to help them realize their potential through photography, film production, and the building of life skills.