Girls becoming inspiration by speaking up
Each year, a few numbers of girls are saved from early marriage in Ofla district, especially in those limited kebeles where AAE-Ofla DA intervenes in collaboration with various relevant sectors under UN Trust Fund. The 10 watch group committee member women disclosed and brought child marriage cases in their surroundings while there are also ample cases where the victim themselves courageously bring their case before concerned bodies, mainly district women affair office and mostly to women watch group committee. Menkere kebele is one of the strongest and well changed UNIFEM kebeles of Ofla district in which the occurrence of child marriage has come to zero even though there are few attempts to do so. Abeba Semere Kebede is a 17 years old young girl from Menkere kebele who was able to speak out for herself when her mother was determined to got her married to a guy much older than her in September 2011. “I live with my widowed mother, my brother and sister. My father died when I was a kid, 16 years ago; my mother was not willing to marry again despite the frequent requests in order to raise us with out much challenge.” Currently, Abeba has passed to grade 6 scoring 72.0% average by which she was able to stand 5th out of 54 students in her class.
“Last year, my mother arranged a marriage for me claiming that it is to help me start my life and support my self given my ‘husband to be’ fortune and inheritance.” Abeba didn’t know she was going to get married until her mother told her so. She said, “When I saw my mother preparing feast and local drinks I thought it was for some religious ceremony. Even though I didn’t know it then, I had also wear a dress that the groom to be bought for me as a sign of being engaged. When my mom told me finally, I was so angry and shocked because I know that I am so young to be married and I want to pursue my education much further besides I already know that I am different from the guy, knowledge (he is not educated at all) and age wise.” Abeba had got wiped and insulted for refusing the marriage proposal; her mother was very furious at her even for questioning it.
Abeba said, “Since I knew and heard about a local girl named Abeba Meresa saved from early marriage by Menkere watch group committee, I immediately went to W/ro Zewdie, the committee chairperson and told her my case. She comforted me saying that she will stand by my side.” Zwedie and the rest of the members discussed the matter of the issue and went to Abeba mother to talk out of her plan. The committee as trained and educated told Abeba’s mother that what she was up to is very illegal and has legal consequences. But, Abeba’s mother was not willing to backed out by claiming that Abeba is father less and this all drama is a conspiracy to stop Abeba from starting her own life; they should have helped her instead of arguing.
Abeba added that “she had confronted and quarreled with me when the committee got involved; she kept saying that no body would never said anything if it wasn’t for my disclosing. My mother used to tell me that if I get married early, my life would be improved and get better.” The woreda women affair office head also was involved in solving the case with the information gathered from the committee. After a frequent persuasion and struggle, Abeba’s mother agreed to cancel the wedding. Her mother paid off the expense of Abeba’s engagement dress for the’ groom to be’ by selling her cow for which Abeba paid her later from her per Diem. “ I went to Addis Ababa for the first time last year because of this and I was so thrilled to be able to pay my mom back about 1700 birr from the per Diem I got from ActionAid.”
The guy who was supposed to get wed with Abeba also left the district after he tried a failed marriage on the preparation and ceremony meant to wed Abeba. Thanks to the created friendly environment and watch group committee, Abeba has now able to pursue her education in the aim of becoming a doctor one day to help mothers’ to give a safe and healthy birth in the hospital. In conclusion, Abeba said “In my kebele Menkere, child marriage has been eradicated because of the government and watch group committee (W/ro Zewide) effort and struggle. Thus, I would like to say that children/girls should not be asked to get married let alone unwillingly; a girl must not get married until 18 since she could face complicated health and other various issues.”