Ethiopia has the 14th highest prevalence of child marriage in the world, many girls are at risk of gender based violence, and they are more likely to drop out of higher education than boys. The Lijinete women’s network is a community project set up in 2019 to identify and support girls who are at risk. The network is made up of women who have been affected by child marriage and child motherhood, they received training and support to safeguard other girls in their communities.
The project is run in partnership with FORWARD, an African women-led organisation working to end violence against women and girls. Following research conducted by FORWARD in Tikil Dingay, a village on the outskirts of Gondar, we were able to identify local women affected by child marriage who were willing to support other girls at risk.
Leadership and Confidence Training
The project worked with 15 women to provide leadership and confidence training. The women learnt how gender affects roles in society, about sexual and reproductive health and rights and how to support girls at risk of child marriage and sexual assault.
With this training, the women are able to encourage other families in their communities to keep girls in school, to identify and act if a child marriage is being arranged, to raise awareness about the risk and impact of sexual assault, and to share learning about gender roles and inequalities that affect both men and women. The network members work with our staff and the local women’s office to support and safeguard girls in need.
Business Start-Up Funds
In addition to the training, the project also provided business training and start-up loans to all of the women so that they could become financially independent. The women set up businesses selling fruit, hosting roadside cafés and making and selling cereal snacks. As many of the women have children, the business loans ensure they are able to support themselves while reaching out to help others in the community.
Over the project period, the women meet up every month with our staff to discuss their businesses, cases where they have supported a girl, and to provide peer support to eachother. The network members have stoically continued their work throughout the outbreak of Covid-19, maintaining their businesses and pro-actively sharing information and supporting girls in their community.
We hope to conclude the project with a community meeting (Covid restrictions permitting). The event will allow the network members to inform community leaders and local authority teams about what they have observed and make reccommendations to further protect girls.
Two child marriages have been prevented by direct intervention of a network member during the project period.
“What happened in the past is the past. I would like to change my life now and for my children to finish school and get a successful job. I would also like to help other girls to change like I do.”
Lijinete Network member
Can you help?
- £20 could fund a monthly network meeting
- £50 enables us to respond to the immediate needs of a girl at risk
- £160 provides a business start-up loan for a woman