• Africa

    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.


    Constructing a New Life

    Ethiopian women find jobs in hard labor.

    Mekedes Getachew is one of six women working on an Ethiopian construction site in the capital of Addis Ababa—a growing trend stemming from the surplus of nannies and cleaners in the city. Even though she started out making only 75 cents to the men’s $2 per hour, she still lifted 100-pound bags of cement to prove herself to her boss. Most girls in her village are married off at a young age, but Mekedes set off on her own at age 11, being a nanny for three children—one of whom was older than her. When she was kicked to the curb after developing pneumonia, she returned home but was spurred to return when she heard stories on the radio of women working on construction sites. Mekedes’s job allows her to save up for when she is truly independent—she harbors dreams of attending school or owning a small shop.

  • Uriel Sinai/Getty Images


    Ethiopian-Israeli Female Power Players

    After immigrating to Israel for decades, Ethiopian Jews are holding significant roles in government and beyond.

    From a crowned Ethiopian-Israeli beauty queen to a campaign aimed at integration, women are changing the landscape in Israel. The Jewish Agency and the state of Israel are aiming to complete their last mission to bring Jewish Ethiopians to Israel in August. Immigration is up, and since October 2012 roughly 7,000 Ethiopians have moved to Israel as part of the mission. The Ethiopian-Israeli women still face hardship, and many are employed as unskilled workers. Nevertheless, they’re gaining respect in the country. An Ethiopian-Israeli won Israeli Idol recently, and others own businesses. But, as the recently crowned Miss Israel said, there is still a long way to go.



    Radio Show Gives Girls a Voice

    Centered on an all-female band.

    In Ethiopia, 20 percent of girls say they have no friends. But a groundbreaking radio show featuring an all-girls band wants to connect them. Yegna, which means “ours” in Amharic, tells the story of five girls who become friends and create a band. The 30-minute weekly show is followed by a talk session that encourages listeners to call, text or go on Facebook to chat about it. More than 500 Yegna Ambassadors, a team of young women and men spreading the word across Ethiopia, hold listening parties during the broadcasts and discuss some of the challenges raised. At the band’s first public performance, a roar of approval sounded from the crowd after the song’s opening lyrics: “We are here, we should not be silent.” Check out the catchy single below.

  • Reeyot Alemu. (Getty; IWMF)


    Ethiopia's Jailed Truth Teller

    The winner of UNESCO's press freedom prize, Reeyot Alemu has been jailed for speaking out against her government—but her name has not been forgotten.

    She’s spent the last 669 days languishing behind the bars of a notoriously brutal prison, but Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu has not been forgotten. On Tuesday, the 32-year-old female dissident was honored with the 2013 UNESCO-Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. In announcing the prize, the jury hailed her “exceptional courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression.” But no amount of international awards and public outcry have succeeded in gaining her freedom—and her medical condition is reportedly deteriorating. After recently undergoing surgery for a breast tumor, she was immediately sent back to the Kality Prison with no downtime for recovery, according to reports.

    Last year, the International Women’s Media Foundation bestowed a Courage in Journalism Award on Alemu in absentia for her “refusal to self-censor in a place where that practice in standard, and her unwillingness to apologize for truth-telling, even though contrition could win her freedom.” At the ceremony, the presenters read a note from Alemu that had been smuggled out of prison. “For EPRDF [Ethiopia’s ruling party], journalists must be propaganda machines,” she wrote.