A teenage mother who was told she had ‘ruined her life’ and would ‘never amount to anything’ after an unplanned pregnancy has shared her inspiring story. At the age of 18, expectant single mother Ebony King was living in hostels with rats.
Having been called a “shame”, she lacked support both mentally and emotionally. She had to struggle every day in accommodation marred by antisocial behavior just outside.
Now she is an example of how it can get better. And she uses her first-hand experience to help other young women through her charity Elevate Her. “When I visited these hostels, I remembered the time I spent there and told young women that although it may seem like a negative situation at the moment, it can improve. I am an example of that” , she said. says MyLondon.
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“I know it’s important to have that support when I’m going through something life changing. I had a lack of support, mentally and emotionally. I know how hard it is trying to struggle every day .”
Ebony has since made it her mission to help young women in ways she would have liked. The 32-year-old, from Barking and Dagenham, hopes young girls growing up today won’t have to endure some of the first-hand experiences she has had.
When Ebony was seven years old, her parents divorced and it began a period of uncertainty. After being locked in a custody battle between her mother and father, Ebony began living with her mother. She went from seeing her father every day at times, with Ebony becoming rebellious.
She said: “I remember moving to Barking and Dagenham with my mum and it was a bit of a culture shock. It wasn’t as diverse as it is now and coming from Tottenham where we lived with my dad , it was very different .
“When I couldn’t see him as often it definitely affected me. I was a daddy’s girl and not seeing him I started to become more and more rebellious. I’m grateful to my mum because ‘she really worked hard to keep a roof over our heads.”
She said that at one point her mother had three jobs just to be able to pay the mortgage and the bills. While the financial support was “incredible”, she also needed emotional help, she said.
After receiving advice from a youth charity, at 16, Ebony decided to leave home. She received advice from the town hall who put her in temporary accommodation in addition to staying with her father for a few months.
At 18, Ebony discovers that she is pregnant.
“My dad’s family member told my mom I was pregnant. She was so angry. She said I ruined my life, family members said I wouldn’t stand for anything and that I was a disgrace even though I needed physical and emotional support during this time, I was punished in some way,” Ebony recalled.
Ebony moved into a mom and baby hostel once she had her baby where she encountered terrible conditions. At her first hostel, she was greeted by rats upon arrival and unsanitary conditions. The hostel was made up of 12-15 different teenage mothers who really only had each other.
Another hostel in Ilford was on a street full of rats and anti-social behavior just outside. Ebony was then temporarily housed in the borough of Haringey.
However, one night a fire broke out in the house and she had to return to Barking and Dagenham. It meant that Ebony had now returned to her mother’s neighborhood, but this time with a little boy.
She and her mother came to an agreement and somewhat mended their relationship. His mother helped take care of her son, and Ebony went to study.
After a few years of trying to find the right course for her, she earned a college degree in psychology. She said: “Getting my degree was difficult because at first I never really took it seriously because I didn’t want to.
“My mum helped take care of my son so I appreciated that, but I still couldn’t have conversations with her. I had to be mentally strong for myself and my son.
“I never felt comfortable enough with her to talk about what I was going through emotionally, the issues I was going through with friends, the stress, it was hard.”
Now Ebony has three children and that is something she is grateful for. She said having children later in life “showed that I was not ready at all at 19. It’s so much better to be stable before having children.”
She runs a non-profit organization called Elevate Her UK. It aims to empower young women and provide mentorship to young mothers in homes.
It became a registered charity in 2019, but Ebony herself has been visiting mother and baby hostels for years, whether in Nigeria, the US or here in London. She said: “I want to help girls from disadvantaged backgrounds because I have lived experience of it and I can relate to it.
“I know if there was someone to talk to, a mentor or someone I could talk to when things were bad, it would have helped. I know it’s important for young girls to have that and to be guided so I’m glad I can help do that.”
Elevate Her UK is made up of a team of women who travel to schools across London to deliver empowerment workshops, create a safe space for young girls and inspire them to reach their full potential. In recent years, with the deaths of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, the importance of women’s safety has never been more paramount.
This is another aspect of Elevate Her that they aim to highlight.
“A big thing we’ve seen since we’ve been doing our work is that young girls are prepared online and they need that mentor, that support, to be able to talk to someone about it. Elevate Her is important because all of the women have had some sort of similar lived experience and they can relate to us and that’s what they tell us when we have our workshops.
Ebony added: “And also, young boys need to be educated about their behaviors as well. We ran a campaign to raise awareness about peer violence, bullying, exploitation and mental health issues among young people. We I don’t realize the impact these issues have on young women, many of them didn’t know that, for example, rape, even though it’s “a physical act, can still have a mental impact on women for the rest of their lives. That’s what our workshops and outreach help explain.”
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