CHILD, NOT BRIDE - Ifrah, 17

Thursday 4 May 2023

Story summary:  

Ifrah Mohammed (17) is an eighth-grade student in a small village in Ethiopia's Somali Region. She is the only girl of her parents' seven children. Ifrah is one of her school's top performers; she finished third in her class last year and was promoted to grade eight this year. Ifrah is an active member of the school's anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and gender club, which is funded by NORAD through the zero tolerance to FGM project. 

 When Ifrah was only 15 years old, she heard a rumor that her parents wanted to marry her to a man she had never seen before. She was perplexed and unsure of what to do at the time. However, with the help of her brothers and after a lengthy negotiation between her club members and her parents, they were persuaded to call off the marriage. 

 Ifrah’s story in her own words (Quotes):  

My name is Ifrah, and I am 17 years old and in the eighth grade at a nearby primary and junior high school in the Somali Region. I am the only girl among my parents' seven children. As the only daughter in the family, I have always had the attention and love of my brothers and parents. 

My parents are pastoralists, and our livelihood is primarily dependent on livestock. However, due to the recurrent drought in the area, we lost the majority of our livestock. We now have 20 sheep, five cows, and a donkey. 

About two years ago, I found out that my parents had arranged for me to marry a man I had never known or met before. When I heard their plan, I was surprised and shocked because all I wanted to do was finish high school, go to university, and get my degree. I didn't know what to do or where to go at the time, and I tried hard to persuade my parents not to force me into marriage, explaining to them about my future plans of finishing school and going to university before marriage, but my father was not convinced, and his response was that I had to get married. 

Out of frustration and anger, I finally decided to contact the school's anti-FGM/FCM club members and my teachers and inform them of my parents' intention to marry me. Then, they immediately contacted my family, and after much negotiating and discussion, they were able to persuade my parents to cancel the marriage. 

I am a member of the school anti-FGM and anti-forced or child marriage clubs, and it was through this club that I learned about the most common harmful traditional practices that affect girls and women, such as FGM, child or forced marriage, and child labor, which is why I refused to accept my parents' plan. 

Save the Children provided our club with a variety of resources, including stationery, promotional materials (loudspeakers), and training to our club members. Thanks to the assistance we received, we were able to strengthen the role of boys in challenging child marriage using the knowledge and skills we gained from the training. We were also able to collaborate and engage with school administration, local law enforcement, kebele administration, and other community members in identifying and reporting arranged or forced marriages, particularly among school-aged girls. 

As a result of the continuous education and community awareness-raising programs we run in schools and communities, there have been significant changes in the community's knowledge, behavior, and attitudes toward reducing the most common harmful traditional practices, such as child or forced marriage, FGM, and others. Many families have decided to discontinue FGM and child or forced marriage because of the health risks they pose to girls and women. 

We are grateful to Save the Children and its supporters for their unwavering support. Although the project has only been in operation for a short time, the preliminary results are very encouraging, and we need to expand in the future to reach more people. 

The message that I want to send to my fellow students, particularly girls, is not to quit school but instead to take courageous actions to demand their rights, like I did. I am determined to continue to participate in the school club and do well in school. Biology is one of my favorite subjects in school, and I wish to join a university and work in the medical field.  

Background / Project information   

Save the Children through funding support from NORAD implemented its project focused on cementing changes towards zero tolerance to FGM, Child or Forced marriage and other harmful traditional practices affecting young girls and women in Somali Region of Ethiopia. The project aims to contribute to the national commitment to end all forms of socio cultural factors that negatively affect SRH of adolescent girls by 2025 through building a sustained community engagement. 

Save the Children established and supported 120 child led school clubs in three regions namely Afar, Harari, and Somali and provided them with training that enabled them prepare and disseminate educational messages to their fellow students and their families.