When Grandmothers become Mothers Again

When I ask older clients how many children they have, the answer isn’t always as straightforward as one might expect. Some aren’t sure if they should include children that have since passed away, others don’t know if they should just count the children that are still living at home and others like Nicolasa must also include the adoptive children from within the community that she has taken in. But perhaps one of the most common factors is that many women, for various reasons, now are found raising the children of their children: the job just never ends.

With such high rates of adolescent motherhood in Honduras, many young girls are not fully capable of raising their children independently. This means that for many rural poor women, they start over again as mothers when grandchildren come along. This provides an added strain on older women who have worked since their own childhoods and no longer have the same energy to grow their businesses. By receiving small loans, older women can invest in businesses that allow them to work from home rather than having to make sales on foot.

ToribiaToribia is a grandmother from a Garífuna community in the department of Atlántida who lives with her 18 year old daughter and two grandchildren, aged 2 and 5. Six other children have since moved out of the house and her husband passed away when her children were still young. For years she has been selling fish in the community and refreshments and oranges from her home in order to provide enough for her seven children.

With Adelante loans, she has now expanded into selling clothing, which her 18 year old daughter transports to the nearby Cayos Cochinos to sell. With her daughter’s weekly trips to Chachahuate, Toribia takes up the responsibility of raising her grandchildren and her local business activities. By working together with her daughter, the two young children are able to be cared for while their mother makes the tiring weekly trips to Chachahuate by boat. The earnings made among their business activities allow the young grandchildren’s needs to be met and give Toribia a chance to improve her family’s standard of living.

The issue of teenage pregnancy and motherhood in Honduras affects not just the children and the mothers themselves, but the parents of the young mothers as well. Dependency on parents is often sustained and grandparents must learn to adjust to a growing rather than shrinking household as their children get older.

While Toribia can count on a daughter who works with her to support the family, not all clients I have met are that lucky. Toribia’s daughter manages to support the business while getting ready to start her final year of high school. It is not uncommon within rural areas to find the young mothers and fathers of children without work or education, leaving much of the burden on the backs of hard working grandmothers and grandfathers.

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