Gross gender inequality and traditions of taking child brides in the region make for difficult starts for young women in the Amhara region of Ethiopia.
SOS Children intervene where possible to avert this catastrophe for individuals and society as a whole.
Child brides - a real local problem
One of the country's biggest and fastest growing cities, Bahir Dar is the capital of the Amhara region and has a population of 222,000 people. The region's economy is predominantly agricultural and marked by acute poverty.
Adult literacy is low in the area, with 54% men and only 24% of women being able to read. In these figures one can see a gross gender inequality - girls are frequently only seen as being assets to be married off for a dowry by many of the poorest families in Amhara.
Though the legal age for marriage in Ethiopia is 18, around half of girls are married before the age of 15, with some being married as early as 8 years old. Child brides are rarely given an education and their prospects often suffer. Children of a very young age having babies can have severe health consequences.
Poverty affects children from the very start of their lives
The birth rate is very high in Bahir Dar too, with the average woman having 5.1 children. Even so the rates of infant mortality are extremely high, at an average of 94 per thousand children born.
Stunting is another issue for children in the area. 56.6% of children under the age of five years old do not reach the height they should be in Amhara, and this is largely brought about by malnourishment. Being an agricultural economy, it is dependent on increasingly unreliable rains. Drought often comes and this brings suffering to extreme levels. This further impacts on the growth and development of children.
SOS Children in Bahir Bar
We have been working in Bahir Bar since 2000. We run social centres, a number of SOS families, and health and psychological counselling for the community at large.
Our social centres work to keep families together through community outreach programmes. These are designed to give families the social skills to remain together, but also give pragmatic solutions to their financial problems. Teaching self reliance and economic autonomy is the best solution - being able to make ends meet is better for the family in the longer term than dependence on state or NGOs.
Our social centres also offer day-care facilities so parents can leave their children with us while going to work. Where necessary we offer health counselling and psychological support for those facing the difficulties associated with HIV / AIDS.
A loving home
For children unable to live with their parents, they can join an SOS family in our Children's Village. Living with their SOS brothers and sisters, the children attend SOS nursery and primary schools in the local community. We run an SOS secondary school in Bahir Dar which caters for up to 48 students from across the community.
As they grow up, children need more independence and are offered places through our SOS youth programme. This is a system of shared, supported accommodation whether young people live while attending further education or vocational training.
Vulnerable children in Bahir Dar need you help today. When you sponsor a child, you ensure they receive all they need to thrive and have hope for a bright future.