Early Marriage and Girls’ Access to Education in Amhara Regional State, Ethiopia: Bahir Dar Special Zone Case Study

  • Eliška Gerthnerová Independent Researcher
  • Hannah Haaij Independent Researcher


Early marriage is defined as marriage before the eighteenth birthday, and one-third of the girls in the global South are subject to it. The literature stresses that this harmful tradi-tional practice negatively impacts the physical and mental development of girls, their number of surviving children, their vulnerability to domestic violence and the likelihood of them acquiring HIV (UNESCO, 2012; UNGEI 2007). A global focus on child marriages, exemplified by international events such as the 2014 Girl Summit in London, has created the momentum for addressing this harmful traditional practice more progressively. Despite the fact that marriage to a person under the age of eighteen is prohibited by Federal Law, early marriage is still prevalent in Ethiopia. This is driven by centuries-old traditions which view marriage as a tool for securing societal status and dowries, and for preventing the shame of pre-marital pregnancies. Moreover, gender norms value girls primarily for reproductive activities (Harper et al, 2014).Research in Ethiopia has highlighted that girls dropping out of school (one effect of early marriage) causes a loss of economic opportunity that, in a girl’s lifetime, equals 3% of one year’s GDP (Gable, 2014). This study aims to explore how early marriage affects access to education for young and adolescent girls in the Amhara regional state in Ethiopia, using the Bahir Dar Special Zone as the case study. The study is based on literature review as well as quantitative and qualitative data on maternal and reproductive health service utilization in the Amhara regional state. The findings show that the mean age of marriage in Amhara is significantly associated with lower educational status. This again negatively correlates with a woman’s age at first pregnancy and her total number of children. Early marriage is predominant in rural areas, whereas urban rates reflect the national av-erage. This research concludes that the practice of marrying-off girls in Amhara denies them access to education, which fuels the vicious cycle of illiteracy, poverty and gender inequality, and also spills over to the next generation as illiterate mothers transmit the same patterns to their children and consequently to entire communities.
Dec 14, 2015
How to Cite
GERTHNEROVÁ, Eliška; HAAIJ, Hannah. Early Marriage and Girls’ Access to Education in Amhara Regional State, Ethiopia: Bahir Dar Special Zone Case Study. Development, Environment and Foresight, [S.l.], v. 1, n. 2, p. 106-122, dec. 2015. ISSN 2336-6621. Available at: <http://def-journal.eu/index.php/def/article/view/13>. Date accessed: 23 july 2019.


early marriage; education; Ethiopia; Amhara; gender inequality