A Case Study on Early Marriage Practice in Midda Woremo District, Amhara Regional State, Ethiopia
Woldegies, Belete Deribie (2008). "A Case Study on Early Marriage Practice in Midda Woremo District, Amhara Regional State, Ethiopia" Paper presented at the 5th annual conference of the HDCA, 10-13 September 2008, New Dehli, India.
Ethiopia is among the countries where early marriage practice is prevalent Studies and personal observations indicate that most girls are marrying at their childhood. Children are promised to an early marriage at the age of 7 or 8 years. In this paper, early marriage practice is discussed in detail by focusing on one of the districts—Mida Woremo District/Woreda in the Amhara Regional state/. The Amhara National Regional State is one of the nine regional states in Ethiopia. It is situated in the northwest part of the country. The projected total population of the region in 2008 was 20, 136, 000. Out of the total population, 10, 060, 000 are males and 10, 076, 000 are females. The overwhelming majority (about 88.04 %) of the region’s population lives in the rural areas and the remaining 11.95% of the population lives in urban areas (Central Statistics Authority, 2007). In the Amhara region, women are guardians of their children's welfare and have explicit responsibility to provide for them materially. They are the household managers who provide food, nutrition, water, health, and education. One can observe that women in the target areas experience physical hardships throughout their lives. These hardships involve carrying loads over long distances, grinding some type of seeds manually, working in the homestead, raising children, and cooking. Traditionally, women have suffered socio-cultural and economic discrimination and have had fewer opportunities than men for personal growth, education, and employment. As in other traditional societies, a woman's worth is measured in terms of her role as a mother and wife. Most women are living in subsistence agriculture where their life is integrated into the rural economy, which is basically labor intensive and exerts a heavy physical toll on all, including children. Early marriage is the most common harmful traditional practice in Mida Woremo District. The population and housing census showed that the population size of Midda Woremo District was 103, 979, out of which 49.1% are male and 50.9% are female. The population and housing census also indicated that the urban-rural distribution of the population is 4.5% urban and 95.5% rural, and the urban location of the district is called Meragna. The main economic activity of most of the people is agriculture that largely depends on cultivation of subsistence crops such as teff, maize, sorghum, wheat, and barley. Climatically, the district has three zones—namely tropical (Kolla), sub-tropical (Woina Dega), and temperate (Dega zones). The Woreda has a great deal of shortage of water, particularly in the Kolla and the Woina Dega areas, where women and children have to travel a long distance to get water for themselves and their animals (National Committee on Traditional Practices of Ethiopia, 2003a). The major assumption of this case study is that early marriage practice affects the rights of girls in Mida Woremo district where their rights to life and education are violated by their own parents.The objective of this case study is to assess the effect of early marriage on the rights of female children and suggest possible solutions that will contribute to the elimination of the harmful practice. Data will be collected from government organizations (GOs), non-government organizations (NGOs), faith-based organizations (FBOs), community members, and leaders who are involved in combating early marriage practices through focus group discussions. The ultimate purpose is to know more about the occurrence of early marriage in the district and examine how the efforts of the Early Marriage Monitoring and Prevention Committees (EMPCs) can be successful in preventing this practice in the district. This case study will attempt to answer the following basic questions: 1. What are the local practices of early marriage in Mida Woremo district? 2. What are the rationales behind early marriage? Why are parents marrying-off their children with all the negative outcomes of the practice? 3. How do early marriages affect the rights of girls to education? 4. What are the roles and constraints of EMPCs in combating early marriage? 5. How can early marriage practices be minimized to enhance the rights of girls to education? Thus, this case study consists of the introduction, positioning of the researcher, the related literature, methodology of the study, presentation and analysis of data, and implications to leadership and change.