Her Excellency Ms Zenebu Taddesse, Minister of Women Children Youth Affairs in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia visited Finote Hiwot End Child Marriage Programme’s community level activities in West Gojam.
During her visit, the Minister met people from Tagel Wodefit kbele in Meche Woreda to hear their views first hand on how this programme to end child marriage had changed their lives. All sections of the community were invited to share their experiences. Mothers and fathers told the Minister of how they had cancelled the marriages of their sons and daughters after understanding the true consequences of child marriage.
Two priests told the assembled group about the preaching guidelines prepared by the programme, and how these were now being used to address followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (141 churches in Mecha Woreda received preaching guidelines). It is on public holidays, regular spiritual services and other key social occasions that religious leaders are using their preaching guidelines. One priest had written a poem for the Minister on the programme’s work in ending child marriage.
Children from the community told the Minister about how they had received training with their teachers on how they were now running activities in their clubs to end child marriage and putting on performances in their schools and communities. The Minister herself explained that the issue of child marriage is clearly stated in the constitution and it is against the law and against basic human rights. “It is a question of basic human rights and a constitutionally preserved right” she said.But she pointed out that it is required to educate all members of the community of the consequences of child marriage. In her testimony of the programme:
We have talked to the community (community facilitators and religious leaders) and they have given their testimony of the changes registered after the intervention of the programme. From their testimonies I clearly understand that the programme is effective and brought tangible changes in the community.One good thing I saw is that community facilitators are trained and religious leaders are provided with preaching guidelines to effectively address their followers. Only in this woreda 690 prearranged marriages for girls were cancelled due to the programme’s intervention and this should be encouraged for future. But what is crucially important is that we have to think of the ways we can expand the practices of this programme to all other parts of the Amhara region. One of our 5-year GTP (Growth & Transformation Plan) is to minimize the prevalence of child marriage.Due to different interventions we have taken the prevalence of child marriage is decreased from 37% to 23 %. It is my conviction that if we continue strengthening our collective efforts like this we can decrease it more than this and I am sure that we can achieve the GTP.And it will in turn have its own contribution for the achievement of MDGs with regard to reducing maternal and child mortality rate.