(One in five girls in Ethiopia is married before the age of 15.)
Yeshi-Alem was forced to marry when she was 10 years. Now at 18, she's been married nearly half her life to her husband Moges, who is believed to be 28.
Like most child brides globally, Yeshi-Alem didn't realize she had been promised to a man. Not until she says her family one day took her on a horse from her home to her future in-laws' house for the wedding ceremony. The next day, Yeshi-Alem went back to her home.
She spent the next few years shuffling between her village and her husband's, an hour's walk away. Then, the family decided it was time for Yeshi-Alem to move in with Moges.
She dropped out of school once their son Girma was born.
Yeshi-Alem then joined a program called TESFA ("hope" in Amharic) which Girl Up has also supported. The program targets 5,000 child brides in Ethiopia's Amhara region.
Most girls are between 14 and 19 and are given information about health, how to save and invest money, and other life skills. The program ultimately aims to empower child brides to advocate for themselves.
Yeshi-Alem also used her newfound negotiation savvy to convince Moges to let her return to school. Now she attends classes in the morning, and in the afternoon helps Moges at a store the couple operates, which is stocked with everything from candles to bags of barley.
She serves customers at a small food and tea shop the couple recently added to the store.
She says she feels like a different person now. When asked how, a smile stretches across her face. She's enjoying a newly discovered confidence.
She says no longer feels shy. She talks to everyone, spreading the word about the harms of early marriage, encouraging neighbors to keep their daughters in school.
St. James Church is celebrating International Day of the Girl by asking their members and the entire diocese of Connecticut to give a high five and donate $5 to help girls around the world. Through Girl Up’s online fundraising platform, St. James Church hopes to raise $5,555 for Girl Up.
Join the growing movement for girls around the world. What will you do to make a difference?