Girls Fight Back Against Child Marriage

In rural Ethiopia, a U.N. program offers financial incentives to parents who promise not to marry off their pre-teen daughters. The Daily Beast’s Liz Goodwin talks to the new generation of empowered young women—and asks whether the change is sustainable.

David Evans

David Evans

Young girls laughing in a rural village in Ethiopia. In Amhara, the region of Ethiopia with the biggest child marriage problem, the average age of marriage for women is 15, and 80 percent of all girls are married by age 18. Many girls in the program said that their older sisters had been betrothed by age 9, or even earlier.

David Evans

At this education center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, adolescent girls who have fled the prospect of forced child marriage in the countryside find a place to learn in the city. The center, called Biruh Tesfa, or Bright Future, is located next to the largest open-air market in Africa, and the girls who come to the countryside often end up working as domestic servants in nearby slums. The program sends mentors to ask the girls' employers to let them go to school for a portion of each day.

David Evans

A girl in the Addis Ababa child marriage prevention program. Most of the girls come to the city without parents, and work for almost no money in the houses where they are servants.

David Evans

Adrianna Logalbo, left, and Elizabeth Gore, both administrators at the United Nations Foundation who work to build partnerships, speak to girls in the child marriage prevention program in the village of Dimbelmesno, located in the rural Amhara region of Ethiopia. The United Nations Foundation is providing more money to the rural child marriage prevention program, called Berhane Hewan, in the hopes that it will expand. The program currently serves 10,000 girls and young women.

David Evans

A woman in the married girls club in a village in Ethiopia poses with her child. She received a sheep for participating in the club, and also learned skills like vegetable gardening and household sanitation.

David Evans

Girls listen to adults speaking at a community conversation in their village of Dimbelmesno. Mentors at the site said many girls were afraid to speak in public before joining the program. After the conversation, some of these girls acted out a play in front of the village that demonstrated the bad effects of child marriage and poked some fun at the village elders with their walking staffs and pompous way of speaking.

David Evans

A woman in the married girls' club in a village in Ethiopia unties a sheep she received from participating in the club. The project provides a social outlet for girls who were married as adolescents, as well as teaching them skills like vegetable gardening that helps them become more financially independent.

David Evans

A woman in the married girls club in the village of Dimbelmesno stands up to speak at the community conversation. At these gatherings, the community's elders and women and girls speak about issues affecting the village and the child marriage prevention program. At this village, the need for another water hole dominated the conversation, since women and girls are usually tasked with fetching water, which takes them away from their studies.

David Evans

A young girl holds a child on her back.

David Evans

A young girl stands to speak at a community conversation in a village in Ethiopia. This girl would most likely have already been married off if not for the child marriage prevention program that provides school materials and an informal learning center for young girls, and offers the incentive of a valuable animal for two years of participation.

David Evans

Girls in the informal education center in Addis Ababa, which educates young girls who have run away from rural villages to escape child marriage, but often end up friendless and unprotected in the big city.

David Evans

A young girl in the child marriage prevention program in a rural Ethiopian village. Girls in the village of Dimbelmesno have trouble going on to high school after they finish their primary education because the nearest high school is 21 kilometers away.

David Evans

A girl carries water on her back in a village in Ethiopia. The task of fetching water falls on women and girls, and water holes can an hour or more away.

David Evans

Children listen in on a community conversation.

David Evans

A young girl strikes a pose at a community conversation in her village. "Before the center we had to argue a lot to go to school, but since then parents see how the girls are improving and value education," said one 11-year-old girl in the program.