This generation says no: Girls talk child marriage

Child marriage endangers girls' lives and limits their potential. Three Ethiopian girls tell their story.

Ethiopia has made important progress in ending child marriage in the past five years. Still, 63 per cent of Ethiopian girls are married by the age of 18. Here, three girls share their child-marriage experiences and we look at a programme making advances in breaking tradition.

Girls in Ethiopia don't have a strong voice within their communities and are generally not recognised as sources of knowledge or solutions. In contrast, Girl Hub sees girls as the experts on their own lives. To inform its programming in Ethiopia, Girl Hub needed to capture girls' insights and experiences of child marriage. Working with the Sub-Saharan Africa Research and Training Center, and using an innovative software tool called SenseMaker, 300 stories were collected and analysed. Here are three of those stories.


"There was a girl who lived in my area whose family were very poor. Because they were so poor they wanted to get her married at an early age. When she got married, this girl was 12 years old and the man was 27. She became pregnant. She had no one to support her in the pregnancy. So this girl suffered much on delivery. She could not give birth and died. Is it not sad? We should learn from this girl's story, educate our families and our communities." - adolescent girl, Ambo, Ethiopia


"I have a story I would like to share. When I was a child I faced a number of difficulties. I went through to grade nine at school, but then I was forced to stop my education and to get married because I lost the support of my family. After grade nine (aged 15), being a girl it's a must for us to get married. It means losing our virginity. I went through all of that. I was from a poor family and they made me stop my studies and get married. I still feel angry about it. Girls shouldn't be made to stop their education." - female mentor of an adolescent girl, Ghimbi, Ethiopia


"There was a 12-year-old girl whose parents wanted her to get married. She was a clever student who wanted to be a doctor. But because the girl's father loved money too much he didn't want to send her to school and instead forced her to marry a 50-year-old man. The intention was for the girl's life to improve, but her life was spoiled by the decision made by her parents. She got pregnant. Since she was still very young, she suffered a great deal during the pregnancy. She became ill and, on the long journey to the hospital, she passed away. Her father felt sorry." - adolescent girl, Debre Zeit, Ethiopia


In the Amhara Region of Ethiopia, one in five girls are married by the age of 18. But things are changing.

Six years ago, a new project, Berhane Hewan (Light for Eve), was implemented by the government of Ethiopia, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Population Council. The programme worked with communities to tackle the root cause of child marriage.

By encouraging people to talk about the value of keeping girls in school, and giving simple incentives such as school supplies, the project transformed centuries of tradition in months. Nearly 10,000 girls have delayed marriage and stayed in school.

When asked today what would happen if someone in her village tried to marry their daughter before the age of 18, Aynete Abera gives a straightforward answer: "We would not allow it."


In May 2011, the UK Department for International Development approved a new programme to scale up Berhane Hewan to reach 200,000 girls by 2015. That programme is called Finote Hiwot - 'Bring Light To Your Life'. The Nike Foundation is a member of the advisory committee for the programme.

Find out about girls' fight against child marriage in India