Ethiopia’s Context

Ethiopia is one of the fastest developing economies  in the world but this progress has yet to make much difference to many families living in poverty in urban slum or rural areas where gender inequality and harmful traditional practices continue to be the norm.

FGM has been illegal in Ethiopia since 2004 but 74% of girls and women undergo the practice. Ethiopia also has one of the highest rates of child marriage with 41% of girls and women married by the age of 18.

There are multiple, complex and interrelated reasons given for child marriage in Ethiopia. Traditional beliefs and attitudes held by parents and other key decision makers in the community are highly influential. This is intrinsically linked to the desire to protect a girl’s virginity, as a girl’s chastity is perceived to be closely associated with a family’s honour. Similarly, some families marry their daughters young to ‘link’ their family to another family of good lineage. It can also be considered a way out of poverty, as they can benefit from the bride price, and ‘hand over’ the financial responsibility for their daughters to another family. It is also seen as a means of achieve social security as families believe their sons-in-law and grandchildren will be able to take better care of them in old age than their daughters.

Frequently, child marriage is fuelled by the absence of other viable options or choices for girls and their families. In some cases girls ‘choose’ to get married, hoping it will improve their quality of life. Across the world, child marriage often means the end of education for young girls and this is evident in Ethiopia where less than 1 in 5 girls reaches secondary education.

“I learned that other married girls are having children too young. I learned from them that I shouldn’t have a baby until I am older – I learned the challenges through the other girls’ stories.” – Participant in PEER Research

Country Stats

  • Prevalence of FGM: 74% of girls and women have undergone FGM in Ethiopia (UNICEF 2013)
  • Campaign against FGM: 63% of girls and women think FGM should end (UNICEF 2013)
  • Name of FGM: Megrez, Mekhnishab or Absum
  • Legal Status of FGM: Illegal since 2004
  • Child marriage: 16% of girls in Ethiopia are married by the age of 15 and 41% are married by the age of 18 (UNICEF 2014)
  • Legal Status of CM: It is illegal to marry under the age of 18
  • Maternal mortality ratio: 420 per 100,000 live births 16.1% (WHO 2010)
  • Prevalence of GBV: 68% of women believe their husbands have a right to beat them (Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey 2011); 49% of women have experienced physical violence from a partner while 59% have experienced sexual violence from a partner (UN Women 2011-12)
  • Other statistics: Less than 1 in 5 girls enrol in secondary education (The Worlds Women 2010: Trends and Statistics), and 8% of all married women have been abducted into marriage (Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey 2005)
  •  Gender Inequality Index: 173 of 187 countries (UNDP 2013)