Media Campaigns in Schools: A Drama Saves the Life of a Girl

ECMP supports schools in various ways to capacitate them in their campaigns against child marriage, and this includes provision of media equipment to mini media clubs. With the support of media equipment, mini media clubs in particular employ a wide range of campaigning strategies to mobilise the local community and to bring about behavioural change. Here is a fascinating story of a young girl who has been saved from child marriage through a drama:

Her name is Addis Demile. She is eighteen years old and an 8th grader at Metaya Primary School in Enarj Enawuga Woreda, East Gojam Zone. She is a member of the Girls’ Club in her school. One day she heard that her parents were planning to give her away to marriage without her knowledge and consent. She heard nothing about the marriage arrangement while her parents were making a deal with the parents of her would-be husband. Unexpectedly they informed her about the marriage arrangement and told her: “we would like to see your Adugna while we are alive.” (Adugna in Amharic means a fortune or a blessing). She recalls what happened: But I said no, even though I am aware that a child’s suggestion is not respected or taken for granted. They affirmed that “you ought to accept the marriage”. Meanwhile, my father was about to change his mind and tried to persuade my mother to abandon her idea of giving me into marriage, because he had a primary level education. When it comes to marriage arrangements in rural areas, it is customary that no one can go against a woman’s suggestion. Hence, my mother convinced my father arguing, “We should see her Adugna while we are alive” and finally he accepted her idea. This made me anxious and immediately I consulted my school friends about the incident and they advised me that I should inform the case to the school. I followed their instruction and informed the case to my teacher, who is also the Girls’ Club Facilitator. She told me to bring my mother to school without giving her any clue of the actual reason, and I did so. My teacher (the Gils’ Club Facilitator) then asked my mother about the marriage arrangement. She also advised my mother that: “your daughter can decide herself whom to marry, when she finishes school”. But my mother showed no embarrassment and regret in front of my teacher and affirmed that “I would like to see my daughter’s Adugna while I am alive and I will never change my mind”. Even if the teacher explained to Addis’s mother in detail about the consequences of child marriage and that she should allow her daughter to continue her education, all her effort was vain.

Addis explains what happened next: My mother resented (this) and almost stopped talking to me for several weeks, considering that I have disgraced her in front of people, by exposing the marriage arrangement publicly. It was at this point that Alemnesh Ayenew, the Girls’ Club Facilitator, initiated the idea of preparing a drama on child marriage and chose Addis to take a role in the drama. In the drama Addis was given the role of a female student who would suffer from child marriage at an early age and finally dies of prolonged labour. Addis says: This time I invited my mother to watch the drama and I performed my role in her presence. She saw me dying on the stage and she took every scene of the drama very seriously as if it is true. When the drama was over, she hugged me and wholeheartedly expressed her regret: “Oh my daughter, I was about to kill you like this”. I learnt that the drama profoundly touched her to change her mind-set towards child marriage. As for me, the power of the drama lies in its representation of two different scenarios. On the one hand it depicts the fate of an unfortunate young girl who has been given into marriage by her parents at an early age. As a result, she quits her education at a tender age, gets pregnant early and finally loses her life due to prolonged labour. On the other hand, the drama portrays a girl who got support and encouragement from her parents to attentively follow through with her education, and consequently she succeeds and realises her childhood (dream) by becoming a medical doctor. I think these two scenarios left an impression my mother’s way of thinking, because she did not want to see herself as a failure and her daughter (dying from the consequences of) child marriage. Since then she has been compassionate to me and she is always supporting me to be successful in my education. This taught me that drama is a very powerful means of communication to bring about behavioural change among the community. This is possible mainly through ECMP’s provision of mini media equipment and school clubs trainings - students and club facilitators are now able to devise new ways of campaigning against child marriage.