Ethiopian girls fight child marriages

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Tuesday, 7 June, 2011

In the Amhara region of Ethiopia, where girls are commonly married off at the age of 12, Elders Desmond Tutu, Gro Brundtland and Mary Robinson meet young girls determined to avoid early marriage and hear from women who were child brides themselves. The Elders and the young women are interviewed by Will Ross from the BBC.

"I wanted to get an education but my parents were determined to marry me off," says Himanot Yehewala, an Ethiopian girl who was married five years ago at the age of 13.

"I tried to run away but my mother said she would kill herself if I did not marry him."

"I was not mature physically or emotionally so it was not easy for me to go and sleep with my husband."

She had never met her bridegroom, 18-year-old Gedefaw Mengistu, before their wedding day.

"I knew she was too young. I was in grade five but my father died and I was forced to stop school, get married and keep the family going," Mr Gedefaw told the BBC.

The couple live in Ethiopia's Amhara Region - an impoverished rural farming area where half of all girls are married before they turn 15.

"It's quite shattering to have met people who were married off," Archbishop Desmond Tutu told the BBC on a visit to the area.

"In one case the husband was eight and the supposed wife was seven. I mean you want to say it's abominable," he said.

The South African Nobel Peace Prize winner may have recently announced his retirement from public life but he is out fighting injustice again as one of the Elders - the group of eminent global leaders brought together by South Africa's former President Nelson Mandela.

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