Ending Traditional Practices of Early Marriage

Ending Traditional Practices of Early Marriage

Executive Summary

This study on Ending the Traditional Practice of Early Marriage in Aneded and Basoliben Woredas of East Gojjam Zone has been commissioned by Ethiopian Centre for Development (ECD) and carried out by Dr. Wassie Kebede Social Service and Training Consultancy. The objectives of the study among others include generating and analyzing reliable and timely data on the overall situation of and trends of early marriage in Aneded and Basoliben Woredas; and to learn and sensitize what has (not) worked in the efforts of ending early marriage in the study areas.

Methodology─ the study team applied a mixed design where both quantitative and qualitative methods were employed at the stages of data collection, interpretation, analysis, and writing the report.  In total

382 persons, 73.8% of male and 26.2% of female involved in the study. The participants in survey and qualitative methods are 311 and 71, respectively. The survey was conducted with 311 (241 male and 70 female) heads of selected households from eight Kebeles of the two Woredas. Diverse actors involved in qualitative methods used in the study: Focus Group Discussions (FGDs), In-Depth Interviews (IDIs), Key Informant Interviews (KIIs), and observation.

Major findings─ Harmful Traditional Practices (HTPs) in study sites encompass practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), uvulectom, milk teeth extraction, and early marriage. January and March are the pick months for organizing marriage in general and high incidence of early marriage is registered. Awareness on early marriage among communities is good but bringing change in their practice has not been as expected. Among the total of 311 respondents, 152 (49%) committed early marriage for their children. Disaggregated figure by Woreda shows that 45.3% and 52.6% respon- dents from Aneded and Basoliben Woredas reported that they have arranged early marriage for their children. Parents don’t properly communicate about early marriage to the couples as a result children are forced to marry to whom they don’t know. The initiators for marriage are parents and relatives of couples, neighbours, boys and girls. The major drivers of early marriage are socio-cultural, economic, traditional, and legal factors. Parents arrange early marriage to maintain their respect in community, fear from boys to practice sex before marriage, expectation that girls lose virginity and become preg- nant before marriage; establish relationship with better off families; and expectation for dowry. Inade- quate enforcement of law is another drawback that hindered the efforts of ending early marriage. Early marriage has a negative effect on girls in terms of forcing them to live in poverty, cease to have future vision, divorce, emotional stress, overburden by household chores, unwanted or early pregnancy, and health problems.


Diverse actors have joined efforts and involved in protection of children from early marriage. Some of the actions taken are educating communities, empowering children, closely monitoring and punishing offenders of law, setting up information flow system, establishing community committees, interfering and cancelling early marriage, introduction of age verification system, rehabilitating victims of early marriage, support vulnerable children to continue their education, and facilitate the involvement of mothers in Income Generating Activities (IGA). Overall early marriage has been at decreasing trend in study area however more efforts need to be exerted in distant Kebeles from the capitals of two Wore- das.

Respondents from household survey gave a more credit to Kebele administration and less to schools; whilst participants from qualitative methods outweighed the contribution of schools and children in end- ing early marriage.

Major challenges─ the efforts of combating early marriage in two Woredas has been constrained by institutional, organizational, financial, systemic, and operational obstacles. Inadequate law enforce- ment, weak evidence gathering system, inadequate monitoring, and changing face of arranging early marriage are among the most reported challenges.

Conclusions─ early marriage can be regarded as a chronic HTP that brings a negative consequence on the wellbeing of children and parents. It has also brought negative bearing on the development ef- forts of community and the country at large through complicating the life style of children, increasing the medical costs, reducing creativity and quality of human resources, and widening the gender disparity in decision making processes. Generally, early marriage is a brutal practice that can’t be imaginable in

21st Century. A long ago both couples were too young for marriage, it has been too early for them to exercise sex, and after the wedding ceremony they were taken back to their biological parents to grow there. Now things have been changed and some of these elements don’t exist. The findings of the study revealed that in most cases, parents are the sole initiators of early marriage, and they don’t properly communicate to their children. Therefore, children are forced to marry to whom they don’t know with stress and anxiety. Parents have begun arranging early marriage at night, during religious memorial days, and organize for younger and eligible girl at one go. This means that communities have not yet very well convinced to end early marriage if so they wouldn’t be motivated to go extra miles to nurture this harmful practice.

Recommendations─ the study team believes in that parents/relatives together with their neighbours are the major agents to end early marriage. The strategies and interventions should primarily target to enabling them to say no regarding early marriage, this can only happen through cultivating such atti- tude within these innocent parents who unconsciously embracing awful experience for one or another reason. Facilitating conscious learning on HTPs including early marriage brings more attitudinal change over the current “awareness raising” which goes for a short while and being organized with other politi- cal or rent collection events. In particular, educating mothers to develop negative attitude towards early marriage sought to be important move. When we talk about conscious learning it contains both hori- zontal (peer to peer) and vertical learning (Woreda down to communities, households and individuals). ECD can help stakeholders in developing a strategy to better enforce the law; and formulate commu- nity oriented regulation and introduce a system to monitor the change at the level of households. They can also play significant role in strengthening cooperation among stakeholders that needs to be based on trust, mutual understanding, and ending early marriage as a guiding principle of cooperation. The study team strongly recommends that ECD to work in distant Kebeles from the capitals of two Woredas where less understanding on early marriage exists. It is important to explore individuals and community groups who are perpetuators, followers, supporters, and facilitators of early marriage.