In 2004, the Ethiopian goverment made it illegal for girls under 18 to marry. Despite the law, every year, tens of thousands of girls are married by the age of 15. Many girls are forced to marry in secret ceremonies. This is Melka's story. Melka's story was kindly shared by our member 10x10.
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"I was 14. I'd just come home from school and there were so many people at my house. Everyone was dressed up and I asked my mother what was going on but no one would tell me. More and more people just kept coming.
Then my mother brought me a dress and said 'Here. Put this on. You're getting married.' "
"After the wedding, they took me to his house in the next village. He was so old. He started pushing me towards the bedroom. I didn't want to go inside but no one would listen to me."
"I woke up in the hospital (...) The nurses told the police what happened. My stepfather and the man they forced me to marry went to jail, my mother did too. The marriage was annuled."
"It was hard, but I've come out stronger. Before this happened I was shy and couldn't look people in the eye. Now, I'm not scared of anything.
Here at the school, I teach girls about their rights. I do this so that other girls don't have to go through what I went through.
I want them to know that it's not unlucky to be a girl in Ethiopia."
Now 20, Melka teaches girls about laws that protect their rights. She has intervened in dozens of forced marriage cases.
In the time it has taken to read this article 19 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 3 seconds