Africa

10.10.13

Inside The Tragic World Of Ethiopia's Child Brides

Donated cameras give a glimpse into the daily life of young Ethiopian wives.

Over the 24-hour period that marks International Day of the Girl on October 11, nearly 30,000 girls will abruptly lose their childhoods to marriage. In fact, a girl under the age of 18 turns into a child bride somewhere on the planet every three seconds—the same amount of time it took you to read this sentence. As a result, their numbers are heaving, with some 67 million of them worldwide today. Nearly all of these young and adolescent girls are pulled out of school, robbed of future opportunities beyond back-breaking household chores and child-rearing, and forever slip into the shadow of their husbands’ lives.

Thousands of Ethiopian girls from poor families are subjected to this harsh reality every year in the country’s remote Amhara region. In 2010 the international aid agency, CARE, launched an innovative project there providing more than 5,000 child brides— and their husbands—with rare access to vital information about family planning, maternal and infant health, financial management, income generating activities and the economic and family benefits of gender equality. Known as TESFA—which means ‘hope’ in the local language—the project has led to healthier marriages, and has even begun to shift deep-rooted cultural views about gender roles.

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To measure the project’s impact, the Washington, DC-based International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) conducted an evaluation of the project, employing an interactive research technique called Photovoice. These photographs depict the world as viewed through the eyes—and camera lenses—of 10 adolescent married girls in Ethiopia who benefitted from the project.

The girls—whose names have been changed to protect their identities—were trained in the mechanics and ethics of photography, and over the course of five days in April 2013, they used donated digital cameras to visually document the impact the TESFA project had on their lives. The photos provide a rare and unique glimpse of their daily lives and challenges, their families, their relationships, their responsibilities and, importantly, their dreams.