Frontline Stories

Early Marriage Denies Girls' Education Opportunity

Habtam is determined to stay in school despite husband's disapproval.

Story and photos by Aklilu Kassaye, World Vision Ethiopia

Habtam, 16, lives in Ethiopia where early marriage is widespread, despite the government's efforts to stop it. Local residents often agree to marry off their children before they're even born.

Habtam accepted her forced marriage at age 15. "I said to my mom [that] I didn't want to quit my school," says Habtam. "[My husband] had to promise to send me to school. He did in the presence of the elderly people."

Her to-be spouse, however, didn't keep his word — not even for one day.

A determination to continue her studies

But Habtam's love for school didn't allow her to resign to her husband's idea. When he went to work, she began to attend the school secretly.

"Learning that I was attending while he was out for farming, he first warned me not to do so again," says Habtam. "But I didn't quit. I continued attending school secretly."

Physical and emotional abuse

Though back to school now, Habtam says she doesn't perform as well in school as she once did, sadly due to her traumatic experience with early marriage.

So her husband began to physically abuse her. She remained undeterred in her determination to keep up her education — but each time she went to school behind his back, he would beat her brutally.

Finally, her mother and other adults got involved and asked Habtam's husband to allow her to go to school. But he refused; and just two months after their marriage, they divorced. Now, Habtam lives with her mother and continues attending school.

But the memories of her underage marriage have scarred Habtam. "I feel bad and got upset whenever I remember the time of my marriage," she laments. "The thing has also affected me both psychologically and socially," Habtam adds. "People point their finger at me, even at school, saying, ‘look, this girl is divorced!' When I try to answer a question in the class, I hear children murmuring."

Habtam has a message about her traumatic experience. "Early marriage is the worst practice…it is a heartbreaking practice. The world should join together to say no the early marriage practice. May what happened on me may not happen on the others."

Saving animals to save lives

[2018/10/16] The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), estimates that South Sudan's livestock popula......

Starting a School from Scratch

[2018/10/05] Kenyi says, “I just thought about the future of the children in the camp and came up with the decision to leave ......

Sewing Hope in Rwanda

[2018/09/21] Today, an unprecedented 68.5 million people around the world have been forced from their homes due to conflicts,......

Empty Promises Turned Into New Hopes

[2018/08/23] Samnang and his family used to make a living by working on their rice fields. One day, a friend from his village......

Keeping Refugee Children Safe during the Monsoons

[2018/08/19] Children in the world’s largest refugee camp now face less risk of being lost or separated from their families d......

A Tarnished Bangle Shines Again

[2018/07/30] Misha is more mature than children of her age in the community. She looks after her mother, takes care of househ......

Kicking Gender Stereotypes Out

[2018/07/11] A group of girls at one of World Vision’s Child Friendly Spaces in South Sudan are challenging gender stereotype......

Run

[2018/06/26] There are more than half a million refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo currently being hosted in ......

Shaking off the shackles of the past

[2018/05/28] “In the bush, we spent the days carrying guns and worrying about when the enemies were coming next,” says 17-yea......