Ethiopia’s impoverished rural areas are exploited in domestic servitude and commercial sex within the country, while boys are subjected to forced labour in traditional weaving, construction, agriculture, and street vending. Addis Ababa’s central market is the site of numerous brothels, where some young girls are exploited in commercial sex. Ethiopian girls are exploited in domestic servitude and commercial sex in neighbouring African countries, particularly Djibouti and Sudan. According to a 2017 report by UNICEF, 40% of girls are married by the time they turn 18. They found that Ethiopia has the 15th highest prevalence rate of child marriage in the world and the fifth highest absolute number of child brides – 2,104,000.
Hirut, 15, was just 12 when a group of men tried to kidnap her while she was on her way home from school.
Initially, I didn’t know what they were up to and I was shocked. It took me a moment to get myself together and shout for help.
Previously, it was normal for a girl to be abducted and be forced into marriage. I saw a group of elders coming out of our house and my instinct told me that something was wrong. I left and went back to school to ask them for help.
We [Hirut and her teachers] went to my house with the police to speak to my family. They promised that they will never think of doing such a thing again and agreed to let me stay in school. I am a free girl now, and studying hard to become a doctor.
While Hirut was away from her village, her friend was forced into marriage.
I sometimes see her. Now she has 2 children and because of the misery of being a child wife and mother, her face has changed a lot.
All I care is about my education and dreams. I am so thankful that I took part in Plan International’s child protection project which helped me become stronger.
Narrative provided by Plan International