Teachers rescuing students from child marriage

Teachers rescuing students from child marriage

Martha Tadesse
Teachers rescuing students from child marriage
UNICEF Ethiopia/2022/Tadesse
03 June 2022

Beletu Abebe (18) is a grade ten student at Bedesa Secondary School, Odda Bultum, West Hararghe Zone, Oromia Region.

"I am the youngest in my family,” recalls Beletu. “Because our parents died when I was a little child, I was living with my brother and his wife. As I was walking home from school one evening, I was confronted by the elders who had come to persuade my brother to marry me off. I had taken a training organized by the bureau of women on harmful practices that same year supported by UNICEF. I was the gender club coordinator so, I knew everything about child marriage and its negative consequences" says Beletu, who was 15 at that time.

Beletu did not want to get married, and she was also teaching her classmates and club members about the dangers of harmful practices. For this reason, she went to the gender club coordinator, Hawa Kassim, and informed her of the situation. Hawa took Beletu to the Office of Women, Children, and Youth, who quickly intervened.

"Students frequently come to me to report similar incidents, and I always call the Office of Women, Children, and Youth. We went to their office when Beletu arrived that day, and they connected us with Anti Harmful Traditional Practices (HTP) members and police officials who escorted her back to her house. Upon police’s arrival, the elders who were at her house to negotiate the marriage immediately fled and never returned, " said Hawa Kassim.

Hawa witnesses that the Office of Women, Children, and Youth in the region have been a huge support to their club and the community at large.

"This office is the only place where we can get awareness and training on harmful practices for both in- and out-of-school girls. Students are well-informed, and if there is a challenge at home, they come to me for help. I have contacts in the office who are always willing to assist. Because of their speedy response, we were able to rescue a lot of girls from child marriage."

Beletu believes that her teacher’s intervention, the training she received in school and her participation in the gender club saved her life. "If I had not been a member of the gender club, my life might have been different. I appreciate the information my school provides; it saved my life. Because of the club, I knew I could go to my teacher Hawa and usually my relatives were the last people on my mind. I knew she could help me since she stated she would help, and I believed in her. She always tells us  that we could come to her if we ever had any problem."

Hawa Kassim is excited about the gender club.
UNICEF Ethiopia/2022/Tadesse

Hawa Kassim is excited about the gender club.

"I am absolutely thrilled about the gender club. Seeing those girls return to school, complete their high school education, and teaching others in their communities gives me a sense of accomplishment."

Beletu is currently enrolled in high school and is involved in awareness raising activities. 

"The school and the Office of Women, Children, and Youth provides me with financial assistance and are constantly available for me.  I am now in high school, and also a member of the Gender Club that was established by UNICEF. I am always willing to educate my community about harmful practices," says Beletu.

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.