An empowered girl canceled her marriage

An empowered girl canceled her marriage

Martha Tadesse
An empowered girl canceled her marriage
UNICEF Ethiopia/2022/Tadesse
03 June 2022

Mafuza Jemal (17) is a grade eight student at Lengambo Primary School, Haramaya, in the East Hararghe Zone, Oromia region. Mafuza shares how she was rescued from a child marriage.

"When it happened, I was 14 years old and in sixth grade. My father was visited by community elders three or four times: they wanted to convince him to marry me off. In the end, he felt powerless and finally agreed to the marriage, so I moved in with the man. I lived with him for about eight months, during which I was forced to drop out of school."

When it happened, I was 14 years old and in sixth grade
UNICEF Ethiopia/2022/Tadesse

During those eight months of being married, Mafuza took part in an out-of-school forum organized by the Bureau of Women with UNICEF support since 2017 without her husband knowing and got information about harmful practices.

"I attended the forum and learned a lot about the dangers of child marriage and other harmful practices. I was unhappy with the marriage, but I had no real understanding of what the negative consequences were and what can be done to get myself out of the situation. My father was not happy as well. He married me off because the community elders insisted, so it was easier to convince him against the marriage using the information I gained at the forum. After I told my father what I had learned, he was extremely supportive. We reported the case to the Office of Women expert who supported us throughout the marriage cancellation process and encouraged me to re-enroll into school," said Mafuza.

Currently, the gender club has 75 girls and 25 boys which Mafuza coordinates at her school.
UNICEF Ethiopia/2022/Tadesse

Currently, the gender club has 75 girls and 25 boys which Mafuza coordinates at her school. 

“We talk about sexual harassment, and menstruation and discuss various harmful practices in our community with both boys and girls as members. I usually share my personal story with the members and encourage the girls to focus on their studies and challenge their families and the community against child marriage.”

"Students discuss different issues in school and then go home to challenge their parents' long-held beliefs about child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM). In addition, the Gender Club organizes awareness-raising events in which students write poems and perform music about harmful practices. The event gathers not only the parents of the children but also others from the surrounding community,” said the gender club coordinator and teacher, Alfia Ahmed

Students have my phone number and will contact me if they ever find themselves in a similar situation to mine.
UNICEF Ethiopia/2022/Tadesse

“I also send out questionnaires on harmful practices and gender equality to parents, and the responses are mostly rewarding," she said, emphasizing the behavioral change parents have brought in the last two years. “Students have my phone number and will contact me if they ever find themselves in a similar situation to mine. However, in the last two years, we have not had any problems." 

On behalf of the girls and women and their families and communities served by the Joint Programme, UNFPA and UNICEF would like to thank the following governments for their financial contributions: The European Union, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.