A new beginning for a girl whose marriage has been canceled

A new beginning for a girl whose marriage has been canceled

Martha Tadesse
A new beginning for a girl whose marriage has been canceled
UNICEF Ethiopia/2022/Tadesse
03 June 2022

Ifrah Aman (15) is a grade four student at Korke Primary School, Haramaya Woreda in East Hararghe Zone, Oromia region. Ifrah was trapped into child marriage two years ago.

"I went to visit my aunt when I was in third grade, and that is how I found myself trapped in a marriage. My aunt’s friends were at home and kept telling me that marrying a man would give me a better life. Later in the day, the man arrived to pick me up."

Sheikh Hassen Ahmed, Ifrah's grandfather, said that elders from the community came to their house and informed them that she had gone to the man's house.

“Honestly, I was not pleased because Ifrah was still a child and I wanted her to continue her education, but I was frightened that by opposing the marriage, I would offend the community's respected elders. So, her parents and I agreed to give her a hand in marriage,” said Sheikh Hassen.

Chali Aliyee, Ifrah's mother, said, "due to the embarrassment that comes with bringing a daughter back after she has left home, I was powerless to intervene. Because of her circumstances, I was sick for weeks due to anger and stress. I had a fight with my sister and felt helpless. But I could not say no to the elders of the community."

"I was not happy after I went home with the man and I felt I was highly influenced by my aunt. Every evening,  I would go to my parents' house and refuse to go back with him. My grandfather attempted to send the elders to the man to cancel the marriage and send me back to school, but they refused,” said Ifrah.

“It was such a difficult time because she was not happy and we could not just decide to bring her back without the community elders’ agreement," said Sheikh Hassen Ahmed. “She would run back to us every evening, but we had no choice other than sending her back to her husband the next day. I requested that the elders intervene, but they declined."

Ifrah Aman (15) is a grade four
UNICEF Ethiopia/2022/Tadesse

Ifrah believes that discovering the out-of-school girls' forum, established by the Bureau of Women through the financial and technical support from UNICEF since 2017 changed her life.

"I learned about the out-of-school girls' forum in my neighborhood and decided to join. I knew I was too young to be married already, but I had no idea what the implications of child marriage would be, and the forum confirmed my concerns. Then, after three months, through the involvement of the Office of Women, the marriage was canceled. This cancellation has not only allowed me to change my life and return to school, but it has also ensured the safety of my four younger sisters. My sisters will not have to go through the same situation because my parents are aware of the negative implications of child marriage and feel empowered to say no," said Ifrah.

"I joined a community conversation the same year the marriage was canceled. Being a part of the regular conversation helped me learn more about harmful practices in our community," said Ifrah’s father, Chali Aliyee. "All I want for my children is an education and a better life. Now that they are all in school, I want to continue pushing them to pursue their education up to the university level. I am thankful we were successful in saving Ifrah. My daughters will never have to deal with something like this again."

Sheikh Hassen Ahmed was also encouraged by Ifrah’s participation in the out-of-school girl’s forum and the awareness-raising efforts.

"The public awareness-raising campaigns organized by the Bureau of Women I attended taught me a lot.  As a religious leader myself, I meet a lot of people at the mosque and share what I have learned."

Currently, Ifrah is making a significant contribution to her community by sharing her experience and providing advice and support to girls at risk of harmful practices.

"I am a member of the school gender club where we discuss many harmful practices that have consequences on women's health, as well as other topics such as menstrual hygiene. I have also become a member of a community discussion group that meets twice a month, and I frequently share my experiences with others. I am so happy to be able to learn and maybe become a teacher one day and to be a good role model for my sisters and my friends in my village. No girl should have to accept a marriage they do not want and they too, can speak up!” said Ifrah.

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.