I don't want my siblings to go through what i had been through; Hawa's story

Monday 1 February 2021

Hawa, is a 19 year-old girl from Asbuli, a rural kebele, in the Erer district of the Somali Region, Ethiopia. When Hawa was only 15 years old; her parents had forced her to marry a man three times her age. However, she was unhappy with her forced marriage and three months later, she ran away from her husband and fled to Djibouti

Hawa's story(In her own words) 


My name is Hawa and I am 19 years old. I have two older brothers and three younger sisters. Apart from the short-term Islamic education that I attended as a child, I never had the opportunity to attend regular school in my life. This is mainly because we are pastoralists and we move from place to place in search for pasture and water for our animals and there was no school in the nearby village.   

My parents used to be pastoralists and our family’s livelihood depended primarily on the livestock. However, about four years ago, most of our livestock died due to the drought. As a result, we were displaced from our home, and we now live here in the temporary shelter for internally displaced people. 

Some four years ago, I was forced by my father to marry a man three times my age. At the time, I had no idea that my parents were planning to marry me. Although I tried to oppose the marriage at the time, my father forced me to marry because this was a long time tribal norm. However, two months later, I was unhappy with the marriage and I had to escape from the man to go back to  my parents’ home. But soon, my father took me back to my husband. Finally, I decided to leave and went to Djibouti. 

The reason my family married me at a young age was not because they hated me, but because it was a long local tradition in the area. At the time, when my parents gave me in marriage, they received 15,000 Birr and two camels as a dowry from the man who married me. However, according to the local tribal law, a divorced woman had to return her dowry, so my family was forced to return the 15,000 Birr and two camels to my ex-husband. 

In recent days, my mother became involve in the women radio listening group in our village. Through this group of radio listeners, the women in the village listen and discuss on the messages broadcasted through the radio and other harmful practices that affect women and girls in our village. After taking part in this program, many mothers including my mother became aware on the harmful effect of early marriage and female genital mutilation.  Now they have vowed to to abandon such practices.   

Being married at a young age has left a scar in my life that I cannot reverse. I do not want what happened to me to happen to my young siblings. I wish my younger sisters could reach the highest level of education and have a better life in future.    

Project background   

Child, Early and Forced marriage (CEFM) and Female Genital mutilation are the two most common harmful practices that violate the right of millions of women and girls in Ethiopia. In view of addressing this common practice, Save the Children with the funding support of the Norwegian Church Aid (NCA)/Norad and in collaboration with its key partners has designed and implemented a five year project entitled Accelerating and Cementing Changes towards the Total Abandonment of all forms of FGM and child marriage.

The project is operational in six Regional States, (Afar, Amhara, Harari, Oromia, Southern Nations and Nationalities Regional States (currently Sidama) and Somali)

So far, the project has reached over 15,400 adolescents through the peer-to-peer educational methodology in Harari and Somali Regions. Through this project, more than 2,350 people were organized in to radio listening groups, where they discuss harmful traditional practices that affect women and girls in their area.