Transforming lives in Ethiopia

Child marriage: Haalima’s Story

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Child marriage in Ethiopia: Haalima's reality

Haalima was only 15 years old when her parents told her she had to marry a man she’d never met — a man who was almost 20 years her senior. She lives in the Afar region of north east Ethiopia; where consecutive failed wet seasons and a devastating civil conflict have meant that child marriage is on the rise.

"I begged my father not to make me do it... My dream was to get an education, but my family told me repeatedly that I was to be a wife and a mother, nothing more.”

Most girls in Haalima’s position would have to accept their fate, not knowing there was another way. But the previous year, Haalima met a woman named Hasna Hamad — a meeting that changed her life.

Women Extension Workers: trusted role models for girls

Woman wearing a red skirt and black headscarf.
Hasna, APDA Women Extension Worker

Hasna, a Woman Extension Worker with our partner the Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA), was placed in Haalima’s village to speak with the community about women’s rights and health.

“I was fascinated with what Hasna had been explaining to women and girls in the community,” Haalima says.

“She told us why and how we could defend our own interests. How we could be wives and mothers but only once we were ready.”

Hasna’s words stuck with Haalima.

On the eve of her wedding, she made the brave decision to go against her family’s wishes and fight for a better life for herself. She decided to run away.

“I didn’t get far before my brothers found me,” Haalima says. “They brought me back home and tied me up using thick ropes. It took me hours to loosen the knots but eventually, I was able to free myself. I ran through the darkness to Hasna’s home.”

Fighting for girls' rights

With Hasna’s help, Haalima was able to get her case heard by the justice office. Even though she never consented to the marriage or even attended the ceremony, she was deemed legally married. But Hasna and APDA fought for Haalima’s rights, and she was granted a divorce.

Today, at 27, Haalima is happily married to a husband of her choosing, Hasan, and they have three beautiful children together. “Hasan is a good man, and we have a very good marriage,” Haalima says. “While I never got my dream of having an education, Hasan works hard to make sure all three of our children will get to go to school, including our daughter.”

You can help protect girls like Haalima

With your support, our partners can protect girls from forced marriages, stand up for girls’ rights and continue to work alongside communities to end child marriage for good.

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