Seblewongiel Aynalem, Sewmhon Demissie, Sonja John

Child marriage is a well-documented problem in Ethiopia. Although some progress has been made in the past decade to decrease cases of child marriage, it remains common practice. The global citizenship education (GCE) framework, with its broad understanding of human security, holds that individuals and civil society, as well as state institutions and the global community, carry joint responsibility for achieving and maintaining people’s wellbeing. GCE is well-researched in the global north, but its applicability to Global South contexts has received little attention thus far. This project fills this critical knowledge gap. It examined how parliamentarians in Ethiopia are addressing child marriage, and the extent to which this does or does not align with the GCE framework, as well as whether the GCE is even relevant in resolving human security problems in societies like Ethiopia.

The project team conducted interviews with people working in regional bureaus of health, women and children, justice, and education in Amhara. The research shows how a confluence of social, economic, cultural, and political factors perpetuate this harmful practice across a range of cultural and religious contexts. By educating people on how child marriage is rooted in gender inequality, and in the low value accorded to girls, and is exacerbated by poverty, insecurity and conflict, these research are generating the evidence needed for more appropriate action. They also participated in a series of community conversations about the kinds of interventions that are needed to put an end to child marriage, with the aim of bringing these to the attention of Amhara parliamentarians and advocating for child marriage to be a key election issue.

They have dissemination their findings widely:

  • gave their analysis of current laws, policies, practices, and attitudes around child marriage with local community groups as part of Plan International’s ‘Yene Raey’ (My Vision) project
  • made a presentation at Setaweet’s, the leading feminist movement, all-women academic conference in 2019
  • presented at the first annual Conference of the Secretariat of the House of People’s Representatives of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
  • published in a leaflet for distribution to young girls and women about their rights and about the organisations they can contact for support
  • a poster presentation was made as a part of world science week, ‘Ethiopian women scholars’ day‘ workshop
  • presented ‘The Role of Parliamentarians in Addressing Child Marriage Practices in Amhara Region, Ethiopia’ within the Global Citizenship Education Framework
  • published a booklet entitled in ‘International, Regional, and National Policies, Laws, and Charters in the Area of Child Protection‘ and distributed 400 of these booklets to four elementary schools in four Bureaus (Bureaus of Women, Children, and Youth Affairs, Education, Justice, Health)


About the research team

Seblewongiel AynalemSonja John (@narrfnarrf) and Sewmhon Demissie are all Assistant Professors at Bahir Dar University in Ethiopia, ranging across the social work, political science and international studies, and gender and development studies departments. Their project stems from the emergence of Global Citizenship Education (GCE) as an important trans-national collaborative research theme between Bahir Dar University and Klagenfurth University in Austria.