Tackling child marriage through theater in Ethiopia

Theater is a form of community awareness that has proven to be very effective in large parts of Africa. Everyone understands the story and heavy themes and problems that everyone in the community recognizes are touched on with speed and lightness and made negotiable. in Gondar, Ethiopia, Her Choice is working on ending child labour and child marriage through theatre plays. Because the actors themselves are writing the script, this has really taken hold of reality. The impact is therefore enormous.

Meet these four members of the Girls Club at the Dagut Primary school in Gondar, Ethiopia. Here the local ngo WCAT, one of Her Choice’s 27 partners in the field (and local partner of alliance member Stichting Kinderpostzegels Nederland), is working on ending child labour. Because where child labor occurs, there is often also child marriage and girls’ rights are at risk.

Unsafe situation

The four girls in the picture are also members of a theater group. Recently they performed in a piece about child labor. The story: a single mother sends her two children (a boy and a girl) to school. With the few resources she has, she does her utmost to realize a better future for her children.

On the other hand, there is a father who sends his children out to work. The boy therefore ends up in an unsafe situation because he is recruited for heavy labor and the girl works in a family where she is raped by the man of the house. The problems cannot be overseen and the theater piece does not end well, as is the reality for most children who are involved in child labour.

Harmful Traditional Practices

The girl in the red vest, second from the right in the photo, plays the role of mother of the two school-aged children and has drawn the Coptic cross on her face with a marker (we see this facial tattoo often with the Amahara among the older generation women). Facial Tattoos are considered a Harmful Traditional Practice. There are more than 70 Harmful Traditional Practices, of which Female genital mutilation (FGM), Child Marriage and Marriage by Abduction affect girls lives in the most catastrophic ways and which are a special focus in the Her Choice programme.

A member of the theater group wrote the script, making it easy for the community members present to relate to the piece. And while the topics and problems touched upon are heavy and serious, they are brought in a humorous and light ways, in that way adding to its change making impact.