Alemtsehaye’s Choice: Saved from marriage with the help of the Girls Club

In the North Shoha Ethiopian region, east of the capital Addis Ababa, The Hunger Project is actively working within the Her Choice alliance to end child marriages. For example, by setting up Girls Clubs and making sanitary pads available. In this way teenage girls can go to school as long as possible. Not only does it give them a chance for a better future, but school-age girls also marry later. Pictures: Johannes Odé/ The Hunger Project

Alemtsehaye Kibbete (16) walks at least 40 minutes from her home in the village of Kobeb Mesk to school every day. A considerable distance, especially when she has her period. She would prefer to walk home between classes to change herself. Cleaning at school was not an option because there were no good sanitary facilities. That is why she often stayed at home when she had her period.

Alemtsehaye is very happy with the new relax room at her school, which was created at the initiative of Her Choice. “Here I can wash and change myself, or just rest if I need it. And here we make our own sanitary pads and underwear together with the other girls. Buying is too expensive for us and not an option. ”

Talk freely about problems and future plans

Alemtsehaye secondary school has more than 1000 students, about half of whom are girls. Of these, 80 girls have joined the Girls Club. All girls like Alemtsehaye, with the ambition to get far in their lives. “I would like to find a good job later, with which I can work on a better position for women and girls. And if I get married later, I want to share the care of our children with my husband. Isn’t that logical? By the way, I want a maximum of two children, which seems to combine better with my work. ”

The girls meet once a week in the Girls Club. Alemtsehaye is happy that she became a member. “We can freely talk here about personal problems and our plans for the future. It is nice to exchange experiences with other girls. We also try to give each other advice. And with questions we can always contact our supervisor Alemeshet. ”

Help from the Girls Club

Alemtsheya was able to ask the Girls Club for help when her parents wanted to marry her at the age of 15. “My mother suddenly found me a man. He wanted to marry me and he had a good income. My parents liked that. But I didn’t like that at all! I wanted to stay in school and learn a profession. But my parents didn’t want to listen to me. ”

“I then asked for advice from Alemeshet, our Girls Club supervisor. She visited my family with someone from The Hunger Project. The headmaster also came to visit. After many conversations they managed to convince my parents that it would be better if I could just finish my school. And the marriage has been canceled. I’m still so happy about that! ”

Tradition repeats itself (or not)

Her mother, Ewawoye Zenebe, got married off at the age of 10 and says: “My mother died when I was a baby. I was taken care of by family, who did not have it wide. That’s why they married me off at a very young age. I have had nine children with my husband. We only have a small piece of land where we grow sorghum and teff. We earn too little with that. That’s why my husband and I also work as day laborers on other farms, and I work as a bricklayer in building houses. ”

“I married off my oldest daughters quite young, that just seemed the best. When a good candidate applied for Alemtsheheya, I did not hesitate. He had a good job and I just want the best for my children. A rich man can give her more than me. But Alemtsheya refused to marry. Everyone in my area thought I should let her get married. ”

“Alemtsheya continued to refuse and sent her teacher and school director to us. They have convinced me that it is better for Alemtsheya to finish her school and that she can get a good income later on. They also said that it is harmful to health if children have children so young. I knew all about it myself, of course. I thought for a long time. I understand that it is better that Alemtsheya can continue with school. With better education, she can have a better future. I myself have never had the chance to go to school, which I have always found to be a pity. We finally canceled the marriage. I also do not intend to marry the younger sisters of Alemtsheya young. I am proud that my daughters can continue learning! ”

In 2018, AISSR / UvA carried out a midline evaluation in collaboration with independent local researchers. Data was collected in 10 countries from 5,204 girls, 3,261 households, 68 health centers and 145 teachers. Read more about the Midline Report here.