From a young age, Semira was in charge of the chores around the house. She would fetch water, cook, and collect firewood for her family while her three brothers would spend their time leisurely. None of them thought anything of it – it was just how things had always been in their community in rural Ethiopia.
Although the chores made it hard for her to keep up at school, Semira did not think much of it. She knew that she would be getting married soon, most likely before she finished school. It was one of the things that was expected of girls in her community. There were other things too, like girls having their genitals “cut” to protect their family’s honour.
“I thought all these traditional practices were useful, and I used to respect and protect them like any other community member,” says Semira.
Then she learned the truth when she was 13. World Vision invited Semira and the other children in her community to learn about gender-based violence. Semira was shocked as she heard how the traditional practices that was a norm in her community, like child marriage and female genital mutilation, left real and devastating physical, psychological, and social damage.
“I learned that the traditional practices were harming girls. I [decided to] give my time to fight the practices and make the community aware of the health, physical, and psychological consequences for the future of girls.”
So Semira formed a girls’ club with her friends to educate her community. “We teach about the impact of early marriage, female genital mutilation, and uvula cutting once every week at our school. We also teach children to say no to harmful traditional practices. When there is a big community gathering, we teach at the gathering through poem, drama, and music.”
“This is the most important thing I can do for my generation,” she says. “I have dedicated my life to fighting and eradicating harmful traditional practices. If we girls are united, we can eradicate these practices from the face of my country forever."
Today, Semira is 15 years old and she has a new dream. Once on her way to becoming a child bride, she is now on the road to breaking down barriers and overcoming injustices.
When you sponsor a girl like Semira, you empower them to contribute to decisions that affect their lives and take hold of their future. Join the movement to sponsor 1,000 girls by International Day of the Girl on 11 October.
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