Bezu is a girl from a rural area inhabited by agricultural families. At 13, she escaped a planned abduction outside her school.
“When I was 13 I was finishing Grade 7. I didn’t know but a marriage had been arranged for me by my parents, to a man I didn’t know. In this area families will arrange a marriage for their daughter, without her knowing, and then agree that the man can abduct the girl. It’s cultural. It’s because a girl would otherwise be resistant. Once you’ve been abducted you’re his.
“The day of the abduction I was in school. While I was preparing to leave there were men waiting for me outside, ready to abduct me right in front of the school. They had paid a boy at the school 10 Birr to point me out to them. The Principal of the school heard about what was happening and found me and told me not to go out the front gate. He helped me escape out the back of the school.
“I ran home and asked my parents why they had done that. They said that he was rich, from town, and could look after me, so it was better that I accepted. I said, ‘No, I don’t want this, I want to continue my education!’ I tried to negotiate with my mother but she was very much in favour of the marriage. So I went back to the Principal and through him I ended up becoming a CHADET beneficiary. I wanted to finish my education and not be given as a wife to a man I didn’t know.
“My parents kept insisting on the marriage, but I was very resistant. I kept telling them that if they tried to marry me I would run away, I would go to another country, anywhere. That made them listen to me a bit more. And by then, CHADET was making people aware of the issue. My parents were part of the Community Conversations that CHADET organised and they slowly started changing their mind.
“Eventually the marriage was terminated. At last I could focus on my schooling again. My parents are still part of community conversations and today I know that my father tells people how his daughter was rescued from early marriage. He tells them that if she hadn’t been rescued, she’d been carrying a big burden on her back, and wouldn’t have been able to complete her education. He is really supportive now. They even tell me to study now!”