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.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.