The story of Melesech who escaped child marriage when she was 14 years old. Unlike her sisters who were married off when they were 8 and 14, she got the opportunity to continue her education.
If I were in my sisters shoes and got married as well I would have been forced to work and I would have abandoned my school.
Estie Woreda is one of the most abandoned places in Ethiopia. The area is known for its agriculture and traditional harmful practices that stop children from going to school and lead to child labour. When girls get married at an early age, their prospects for a healthy and successful life are at stake. Girls who marry early are less likely to finish school, forced to work and more likely to be victims of domestic violence and abuse.
The fight against harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, requires investing in community’s knowledge and skills. Creating access to quality education is key. That is why in 2012 Wabe Children’s Aid and Training (WCAT) started to reduce child labour and harmful practices through quality education and the creation of Child Labour Free Kebeles (zones).
WCAT organised numerous discussions, workshop and dialogues with community members, teachers, school children, religious leaders and elderly men and women on the negative effects child labour, FGM and child marriage. Girls were trained on water sanitation and reproductive health. Adolescent boys and girls received life skill training. Close collaboration with teachers, schools and the education department resulted in the expanding of schools and increased enrolment of children. Girls’ enrolment increased in particular.
WCAT established and strengthened girls clubs at various primary schools in the region and the secondary school in Mekane Yesus, the capital of Estie.
The girls clubs are established with the aim of preventing and mitigating community based barriers to girls’ education. The clubs provide girls and young women with the opportunity to receive life skill training, information about their rights and discuss alternative life options such as education.
Today in Estie Woreda
Up to today thousands of children have been withdrawn from child labour and enrolled to school. Girl clubs started to fight child labour and child marriage in school and at the community level. Many girls escaped from child marriage. Harmful traditional practices decreased and child labour is becoming minimized. An increasing number of children have been transferred to higher-grade levels completing from primary schools.