Selenat is an Ethiopian girl who got married when she was 13. Child marriage marks the beginning of unprotected and frequent intimate relationship for girls like Selenat, and it often leads to an early and risky first pregnancy.
She says that she was really young on her wedding day, and she didn’t know that she will be intimate with her husband that night. She thought her husband would wait for her to grow up.
At first, they just slept, but the groomsmen kept on bugging her husband until he had to wake her up, and that’s when it all happened. She didn’t even know what was going on, because she was very young.
The groomsmen and the whole family were so excited that she was a virgin and that she felt pain and she was screaming because that was the whole point of the marriage.
This has been the story of 58 million girls who have been married before they were 18 in developing countries.
Ethiopia has one of the highest rates of early marriages in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the average age for getting married is 14.7 years in the Amhara region.
Bayush, however, got married when she was 3.
She lives about an hour drive from Selenat’s village, and she explains that girls need to stay in education “no matter what”.
Research suggests that education may be the single most important factor in reducing early marriage. Bayush explains that she was very young when she got married, and she doesn’t remember much.
She continued to live with her mom and dad after the wedding, but her husband and her new family visited for events.
She was about to move in with her husband when she was about 8 or 9-years-old, but she asked to go to school when she was 7.
This request led to the end of her marriage. Her dad refused to let her go to school, but her brother intervened, and he offered to pay the school fees if Bayush could stay in the family home.
Eventually, her father agreed, and Bayush “divorced” her husband.
Her dad now supports her and says that he would have ruined her life if he had insisted that she stayed married.
Bayush now receives support from the UK funded Finote Hiwot (“Pathway to life”) program.
The program is currently helping more than 37,500 girls, and many more indirectly. It also runs community discussions about early marriage in the villages, and these conversations eventually bring behavioral changes, which provide the tipping point to end this practice.
Bayush felt empowered by these meetings to talk to her uncle, who wanted to marry off her cousin.
She explained to him that he’d become a better person if he sent her off to school, and she also told him that his daughter is brilliant. He eventually decided not to marry her off, and Bayush feels so proud of what she’s done.
Bayush now dreams about completing her education and becoming a doctor to help people. She says that she feels she has a responsibility to do that.