News

Ethiopians Fight to Stop Early Marriage

In Arerit village, girls as young as 12 years old are given in marriage to older men
In Arerit village, girls as young as 12 years old are given in marriage to older men

Yeshiwork Marye is baking injera – a flat, sour bread that’s a staple food in Ethiopia. The 18-year-old is sitting in a small outdoor kitchen with partially completed walls. Smoke from burning animal dung billows from the kitchen.

<!-- IMAGE -->

Responsibility came early for Yeshiwork. At the age of 14, she started caring for her young brother because her single mother got married and went live with her husband, 100 kilometers away. Yeshiwork herself was married when she was 17.

"He knew marrying a 17-year-old was illegal"
 
Yeshiwork describes her marriage as difficult and awful. She says she only got married to please her family.

Yeshiwork’s husband was at least 25 years older than she was. He worked in his town’s justice system. He was recognized as an advocate of the prevention of early marriage, but Yeshiwork says he did not practice what he preached.
 
“He knew marrying a 17-year-old was illegal,” she says. “In the papers he said I was 18.”

She says he was more than twice her age, and they could not relate well to each other. He wanted her to have children even before she finished high school.

Nigisti Halefom, a woman's rights advocate for Ofla District, tried to stop the marriage.

“This man knew what he was doing,” Nigisti says. “Others violate women’s rights because of lack of information, but not this man. He knew she was young, she was a student and he violated her right to associate with her peers and has psychologically disturbed her.”
 
Yeshiwork's divorce settlement got her a negligible amount of money.  She did not pass her 10th grade national examination to go to college and now lives with her mother.

Effects of early marriage

Girls and young women whose bodies are not fully formed are susceptible to complications  during birth, like fistula. It’s a tear in the lining of the uterus that allows urine and other bodily fluids to leak through. The condition is painful and often creates an odor that leads many communities to ostracize the girl.

Many come for treatment at the country’s fistula hospital in the capital, Addis Ababa. Mark Bennett the hospital’s CEO says about 65% of the victims are young women and this has happened in their first pregnancy.

“These women are disappointed because they have lost a baby. But because they are leaking these bodily contents, they become offensive to those who live with them and a high proportion of them become separated from their husbands,” says Bennett.

Efforts to end early marriage in rural areas

<!-- IMAGE -->

Such cases are even more widespread in rural areas.

In the semi-desert rural village of Arerit, Tuesday is market day.  The market is an important meeting venue for the local marriage approval committee. It’s supported by a local NGO and works with law enforcement agents and elders to evaluate the physical fitness of all girls in the village before they get married.  

Committee member Hussien Areru says all marriage arrangements have to be approved by the committee, which consists of religious leaders, government representatives and women’s rights groups.

“Some people arrange secret weddings but they eventually face prosecution, since the community reports such acts to appropriate authorities,” Hussien says.
 
Parents still ask the committee to approve marriage for girls as young as 12, but the girl has to pass a medical evaluation.  The evaluation takes place at a clinic that is six hours away traveling on foot.

Village elders in Arerit hope that this sort of community policing will soon make early marriage a thing of the past.

This is part 2 of our 15 part series, A Healthy Start: On the Frontlines of Maternal and Infant Care in Africa

« Prev: Female Genital Mutilation Series Index Next: Access to Pre-Natal Care »
This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs