Tejus Home

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OUR MISSION

Tejus Home protects, nurtures and empowers abused, pregnant teenagers.

OUR OBJECTIVE

  • To give the girls a safe and nurturing place to live during their pregnancy.
  • To provide the girls with an adequate and appropriate teenage-centred environment.
  • To provide respectful maternal healthcare to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy and delivery.
  • To allow the girls a chance to live away from judgment, shame and guilt and, most importantly, to help them recover their self-esteem and self-respect.

Over many years working with children, Dil Se has come across too many abused, pregnant teenagers. These girls not only faced the stigma and rejection of their families and communities but they had no place they could go to which would care for them suitably. Dil Se felt called to action and Tejus Home opened in November 2012. The home’s caring environment provides the girls a safe, nurturing place in which to liven during one of the most difficult times of their lives.

Thanks to Birth For Change, the home offers girls the possibility of a healthy pregnancy, a natural delivery and the time to repair their bodies and minds following an often traumatic experience of abuse. The girls receive respectful maternity care, with full explanations of the development of their pregnancy and a supervised healthy diet. The girls are shown the best exercises to help them through labour and the build up to a natural delivery which, apart from empowering the girls via their active participation, leaves no external scar.

The counselling support provided enables the girls to deal with the abuse that they faced and not just survive but thrive. We employ staff who are sensitive to the girls’ situations, feelings and teenage behaviour in general.
We treat the girls respectfully, helping them with their choices regarding pregnancy, their baby’s future and their own, especially with regards to their future schooling, accommodation and post-Tejus Home life in general. In other types of homes, these were choices that they were generally not given.

Tejus Home also follows up on the legal action which has been taken against the abuser. Every case has an FIR filed and the abusers are arrested. However, they are often allowed out on bail until the actual court case. Unfortunately, this can take a very long time, even though the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act states that cases should be over within a year of having been filed. In most cases, the girls have already made their statements, but occasionally we have to accompany them in front of the Magistrate in their hometown.

  • Information and resources to help the girls make choices about their pregnancy, their baby and their future.
  • Counselling for the young mothers and their families.
  • Encouragement to continue education during pregnancy and after birth.
  • Birth preparation and education classes.
  • Individualized healthcare: prenatal, birth and postnatal care with a midwife.
  • Legal support.
  • Sexual education.
  • Life-skills training: self-confidence and self-esteem, assertiveness, finances, home management, gardening, etc.

 

When a pregnant girl is referred to us, we meet her with acceptance: she may feel angry and ashamed, she may have been shunned by her family and rejected by her community; we are often the first compassionate contact she encounters. We help her to come to terms with her situation and, from there, to understand her options.

Between November 2012 and January 2017, we took care of 52 children: 26 girls and their babies.

Five of the girls decided to keep their babies, with the support of their families. The other babies were given up for adoption.

Some statistics:

On average…

• the teenage mothers arriving at Tejus Home were 15.5 years old
• the teenage mothers arriving at Tejus Home after 27.1 weeks of gestation
• the girls weighed 48.75 kg when they arrived at Tejus Home
• the girls weighted 53.45 kg when they left Tejus Home
• the teenage girls’ HB at their first checkup was 10.47 gm/dl
• the young mothers went home with an HB level of 11.07 gm/dl.
• the girls went into labour at 38.6 weeks of gestation
• the girls were in labour for 3 hours 27 minutes
65% of the girls who came to Tejus Home pregnant had natural deliveries
• the weight of the babies born to Tejus Home girls was 2.79 kg
• the duration of stay of the girls at Tejus Home was 5 mths 14 days

Stories from Tejus Home

While the vignettes are based on real life incidents, all the names and personal details have been changed to protect the identity of the girls.

Shirley was 16 years old when she came to Tejus Home – 6 months pregnant. She had been abused by her biological father over a period of 3 years. The abuse happened at home when the father would come home for the weekends (he was working in a neighboring district).

Shirley’s mother had been mentally ill for many years and was on medication, which made her sleep very soundly at night. The girl had two siblings, one older and one younger. The older sibling started working after Class 8 in order to support the family financially and the younger sibling was still in school. Shirley had completed Class 10 and applied for admission to Class 11.

Shirley and her mother were brought to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) by a member of their local church who had found them walking near a hospital, looking confused and frightened. She realized that the girl was probably pregnant, when she saw her.

Unable to gather any coherent details from either the mother or the daughter, the CWC decided to place Shirley in Tejus Home, and wait for her to settle before asking for details.

It took Shirley a couple of days to settle down, after which she was able to tell us her story. When her mother fell ill, the burden of cooking, keeping the home clean, and making sure the mother ate, bathed and took her medicines as prescribed, fell on Shirley. She walked to school to save on the bus fare, and supplemented the family income by working part-time in a small shop near the house.

Shirley’s father started abusing her sexually when she was 13 years old. She had tried to resist, and threatened that she would tell someone about this problem. However she was frightened into keeping quiet when her father said her mother would become incurably ill if Shirley talked about the abuse. “I hated the weekends, because I knew my father would come home, and knew what he would do to me. And after a point I stopped feeling anything – I would just lie there and let him do what he wanted.” Shirley became scared when she missed her period. She waited a month and then went to a doctor. “I was afraid to tell the doctor about what my father was doing to me; so I just said I was not having my period regularly.” The doctor prescribed an iron supplement saying she was probably anemic. After another month Shirley went to the doctor again, a different person this time, and said she was having abdominal pain. The doctor examined her, told her she had fluid in the abdomen, and gave her medicines for this.

Another couple of months went by and Shirley realized for sure that she was pregnant, and this time she took her mother with her to the hospital. It was obvious to the examining doctor that the girl was pregnant, an ultrasound scan was done, and then the news was broken to Shirley’s mother. Daughter and mother walked out of the hospital in a daze. Shirley’s mother seemed to have retreated into her own world and neither said anything nor asked any questions.
“I remember thinking that the only option was for both of us to kill ourselves, when a member of our church saw us near the hospital, and then took us to the office of the CWC. I remember very little of the trip to the CWC office, nor what was said. I remember being brought to Tejus Home, and the aunty taking my mother home, telling her I would be safe and well looked after.”

Once she settled, Shirley was able to be a 16-year old again – giggling with the other girls, waking up late some days, flipping through a magazine, listening to music and watching television. In many ways she was more mature than the others, and took the instructions given by the midwife seriously – eating the right foods, drinking enough water, exercising – and getting the others to follow the instructions as well!

Shirley gave birth to a baby girl at term, born by a C-section as the baby developed complications. She returned to Tejus Home in a few days, after having given her baby up for adoption. Her case came to court for hearing 6 months later and Shirley was able to tell the court clearly and confidently about what her father had done. The father was sentenced to imprisonment for life, and was also told to pay a hefty fine (this was not possible as the father had neither income nor savings).

Shirley left Tejus Home a little after her 17th birthday. She was transferred to another institution, and then left in order to start working. Shirley keeps in touch with many of the staff, visits her mother regularly and is the person who keeps the family together. Her dream is to earn enough to be able to have a small house, which will be home for her mother, her siblings and herself.
Girija had been in a childcare institution from the age of 3. When she was 13 years old her parents (who had placed her in the institution and would visit her regularly) came and said they were moving to Bangalore and wished to take their daughter with them, along with their two older sons who had been living with them.

Girija was sad to leave her friends but excited at the same time that her parents wanted her back and that they would be going to a new place she had heard a lot about. Before she left one of the staff gave Girija the contact number of the institution and asked her to stay in touch.

A year later a distraught Girija called. She was crying and managed to say “I want to come back. I am pregnant” before handing the phone over to another person. This person was a volunteer with CHILDLINE. She told the staff that Girija had been rescued from the local railway station a few days back. She had told the staff of CHILDLINE that she was 5 months pregnant and had run away from home, wanting to return to Ernakulam and the institution she had grown up in.
In consultation with the Child Welfare Committees of Bangalore and Ernakulam, she was brought back a few days after the phone call.

And the story Girija had to tell was this – on reaching Bangalore, her parents sent her for domestic work and not to school as they had promised. She had to work seven to eight hours a day, and her salary was paid to her father. Both parents were drinking heavily; in addition, her father had outbursts of anger when he would beat Girija with a belt or a stick for being disobedient. In one such fit of drunkenness, the parents got her “married” to a drinking companion and told her he was now her husband and she had to live with him. Girija tried to run away, but was chased by the “husband” and brought back, and raped that night.

“The only difference in my life now was that in addition to my income being taken away and my being beaten; I was also raped every day.” 6 months later Girija missed her period, and told her parents she was probably pregnant. The two of them took her to a local hospital, where the pregnancy was confirmed. Seeing Girija, the staff of the hospital grew suspicious and asked how old she was, and how she had become pregnant. The parents panicked, and before the staff could react, ran away with Girija.

This incident, and the realization that her parents were scared of figures in authority stayed in Girija’s mind. One day when she was alone at home she managed to run away, and make her way to the railway station. Her sole idea was to return to Ernakulam and the safety and security of the child care institution she had grown up in. This was the story she related to CHILDLINE, who in turn made the important phone call to Ernakulam.

After being produced before the local Child Welfare Committee, Girija was placed in Tejus Home. The various kinds of abuse and the neglect she had experienced had affected her deeply. There would be days when she would throw tantrums, or cry for trivial reasons. Other days she would be happy and laugh and sing as she went about her jobs. Girija wanted to keep the baby “the one person who truly belongs to me” and the consequences of this decision were discussed with her several times – all the while reassuring her that she had the right to decide.

Girija gave birth to a baby boy, and is now learning how to be a mother, while still being something of a child herself. She hopes someday to be able to complete her education so she can find employment and bring up her son.
Ruksana was a month away from her 18th birthday when she came to Tejus Home – after having delivered her baby in a hospital a week earlier. The baby had been placed temporarily in a foundling home, and Ruksana was placed in Tejus Home as neither she nor her parents were able to take any decisions on what to do next. Returning home immediately was not a viable option at that particular time.

Ruksana was the youngest of three daughters. Her father died soon after she was born, and her mother remarried a man who had a son through his earlier marriage.
When Ruksana was a child, her mother would be constantly angry with her as she associated her birth with the death of her husband.

As she grew older her source of support was her stepbrother who would take her shopping, help with her school work and became her confidante and best friend. When Ruksana was 16 the relationship developed into sexual intimacy – “but I did not see anything wrong in this, as we were very close and I had grown to love him.”

Ruksana became concerned when she missed her period, but did not say anything until 4 months went by. Her stepbrother promised to stand by her, and the two of them managed to keep the pregnancy a total secret from the other members of the family. “My mother asked if I was having my periods regularly, and I lied so convincingly that she believed me.”
The two of them went to a hospital far from home, where Ruksana delivered a baby boy. But when it was time to leave the hospital, Ruksana and her stepbrother got worried about what they would do next.

“The reality of the situation hit us only after my delivery, and we panicked.” The two of them left the hospital with the baby, and then, not knowing what to do, left the baby in an empty vehicle in the car park of the hospital. “We prayed that some kind people would find our son and he would be well looked after.” People heard the baby crying, and informed the local police who, in turn, informed the Child Welfare Committee and took the baby to a foundling home immediately. The staff of the hospital suspected that this was Ruksana’s baby and informed the police. Investigations confirmed this, and Ruksana was produced before the Child Welfare Committee along with her mother (who was shell shocked and in a state of disbelief).

Although Ruksana did not fit the profile of the girls given shelter in Tejus Home, the CWC decided to place her there, so she would have the space and the support to come to terms with what had happened and then take an informed decision.

It took a while for Ruksana to settle, and her main concern was for her stepbrother who had been arrested by the police and ostracized by the family and the community. She finally accepted the fact that she was a minor, and so her consent to the sexual act was not valid. She also decided to persuade her parents to accept her and the baby, now that they knew what had happened. The parents finally agreed and Ruksana went home with them, after taking the baby back from the foundling home.

Ruksana keeps in touch, both with the staff of Tejus Home as well as the CWC. She is closer to her mother now “becoming a mother myself has probably helped us to understand each other”; has decided to complete her education and find employment. She continues to grieve over her stepbrother but realizes she cannot fight the law.
15 year old Anoopa came to Tejus Home when her class teacher suspected she might be pregnant, and confirmed this when she took her aside and talked with her. The mother was called to school immediately, and accompanied her daughter and the teacher to the hospital where she was found to be 5 months pregnant.

Anoopa was living with her mother while her father and elder brother were working abroad. A shy, quiet girl, she was befriended on Facebook by a young man and the online chats led to their meeting face to face. Anoopa believed the man was a qualified engineer, who was planning to go abroad for work and began to spend more time with him – both online as well as meeting him. The relationship progressed to physical intimacy, and the man started visiting Anoopa at home late at night, without her mother’s knowledge.

On missing her period, Anoopa confirmed her pregnancy using a home pregnancy test kit “which my boyfriend bought for me”. He then reassured Anoopa that he would take her to a hospital in the coming week and get the pregnancy terminated. “I believed him, but that was the last time we spoke. I was unable to contact him, he would not take my calls, and when I made discrete enquiries I found out that he had gone away from the place where he had been staying”.

“I was not close to my mother, and even if we had been close I would not have known how to break the news to her. I could not confide in my best friend. The only other person I was close to was my brother but I did not have the courage to tell him what had happened.”

Once Anoopa came to Tejus Home her father and brother flew down immediately. Both parents and brother were shocked, angry and upset but reassured their daughter that they were there for her. This support did wonders for Anoopa – she was able to calm down, and started taking care of herself. She asked her mother to bring her school books so she could continue studying, and decided she would make sure she had a natural birth and get back to studies as soon as she could. She and her family also decided that the baby would be given for adoption.

True to her decision, Anoopa did have a natural delivery and 6 weeks later she was ready to leave Tejus Home. She was also able to resume her studies, and do well in her examinations. The last time she called Tejus Home was to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and say “but for this place I do not know what would have happened to me, to my family and the baby.”
Sujatha belonged to a tribal community and lived with her parents and younger sister. At 16, she fell in love with a 20 year old man living in the neighborhood. The two families accepted this relationship and according to the local custom, the two of them were “married” to each other in a brief ceremony.

Sujatha was told by her mother that she should avoid getting pregnant until she was 18 and an adult. The girl, however, did not accept this logic and became pregnant a few months later. Fearing her mother’s anger she informed her parents only after 4 months. “I knew that I would be allowed to have the baby, which is what both my husband and I wanted.”

Sujatha was furious when the doctor she went to informed the family that this was considered child sexual abuse and had to be reported to the local police. She threatened to kill herself if a case was registered, and it was with a great deal of tact and kind handling that the girl was brought to the Child Welfare Committee by the police. She was adamant that she would stay at home, and go to a local hospital with her husband for her antenatal check up and delivery. When she was sufficiently calm it was explained to her that such a step would get her parents into serious trouble as legally she was a minor. Sujatha’s husband was understanding and accepted that the law had to be followed and he managed to persuade her to move to Tejus Home where she would be cared for.

In Tejus Home, Sujatha realized that she would have to abide by the law, and also by the rules of Tejus Home. She was not happy about this, but in course of time her temper tantrums grew less, and she began to follow the instructions of the midwife. She also stopped judging the other girls “who have come here because they did something wrong, while I got pregnant only after I was married.” She could hardly wait to leave Tejus Home after her delivery and wryly acknowledges that “my baby is teaching me the patience I never learned all my life.”