These former child brides are standing up for girls in Ethiopia

Did you know, that around the world, 1 in 3 girls in developing countries are married before they are 18 years old. Early marriage is a violation of a girl’s fundamental human rights and crushes their life chances. We also know that early marriage and poverty are linked. Read more about the cycle early marriage and poverty create.


Credit: Girls Not Brides

Can you imagine what would happen if we empowered girls instead?

These two women are proof that given the right chances, women are change makers and will use their voice to stand up for others, even when faced with terrible circumstances.

Melka from Ethiopia was just 14 when she was married off against her will, despite the practice being illegal (Marriage under the age of 18 has been prohibited in Ethiopia since 2004).

She was hospitalized for 30 days after her husband’s friends beat her into the bedroom after her ‘wedding’.

After the authorities stepped in and her marriage was annulled, life was hard for Melka. She needed to work to survive. But she’s made it.

“It was hard, but I’ve come out stronger.” – Melka, Ethiopia

Melka has turned her fortune around and now educates other girls about their rights and about child marriage.

“I want them to know that it’s not unlucky to be a girl in Ethiopia.” – Melka, Ethiopia

Alemtsahye Gebrekidan

Alemtsahye Gebrekidan

Like, Melka, Alem from Ethiopia, was also made to marry when she was young.

She was married at 10, a mother and widow at 13 and was even trafficked to Egypt before she managed to reach the UK. Alem fought hard for freedom and in the end was able to gain an education.

“Education is a powerful tool for change, no matter your age. It helps you define who you are; it empowers you to rise above the hurdles life has placed in front of you.” – Alemtsahye Gebrekidan, Ethiopia

Alem spent years working for the education that marriage had denied her. She eventually founded her own organization, campaigning against child marriage  and supporting women in the UK who also married as children.

Both Alem and Melka fought hard and are now using their voice to support and empower other girls at risk of child marriage. They shouldn’t have to do that alone.

Read more about Melka and Alem on the Girls Not Brides website.

Girls Not Brides is a global partnership of more than 350 civil society organizations that are based in more than 60 countries, committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to fulfill their potential.