Supporting Child Brides in Ethiopia

Girls Not Brides Blog

By Gillian Gaynair, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)

Enana recalls her parents bathing her that day many years ago to get ready for, they told her, a holiday celebration. She doesn’t remember how old she was.

“I was a child,” Enana said. “I didn’t even know how to clean myself.”

A child, but ready – at least in her parents eyes – to be a bride.

That day, Enana married a much older man she didn’t know. And with her nuptials, she became another statistic in Ethiopia’s Amhara region, where the rate of child marriage is among the highest in the world. She became another young girl whose opportunities and childhood were cut short. Another wife and eventually a mother – but not yet an adult – whose life, like many child brides worldwide, often remains invisible to others.

When we met briefly a couple of years ago, Enana said she was 17, but she wasn’t sure. She figured her husband was around 30 years old. They had a son, who was four at the time.

Enana was still upset about that day so many years ago, and the life she was forced into. As we sat together in the grass, Enana barefoot, clutching her knees to her chest, she told me how disappointed she is in her parents for marrying her off to “that old man.” I was struck by how vocal she was about it – no other girl I had met outwardly expressed such irritation with her parents’ decision.

“You’re supposed to be my parents,” Enana said. “You’re supposed to protect me. Even today, I still get angry thinking about it.”