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Married at 9, She was Determined to Give her Son Better Opportunities

Updated: Oct 2, 2018

Endashash was born in a tiny village in northern Ethiopia. She grew up with loving parents and five siblings, and had a happy childhood. But their village had no school, so children were pushed to grow up faster. It was the custom to marry very young. Endashash was wed to a boy when she was only nine years old. Both she and her young new husband missed their parents, and the marriage soon failed. She returned to her family, but another marriage was quickly arranged for her to an older boy.

Still very young and without the tools to make a solid marriage, the new union broke apart. After her husband left, however, Endashash discovered she was pregnant. When the baby was born, he became very ill. There were no doctors in the village, and despite all her family’s efforts, the baby was lost.

Endashash believed this endless cycle of poverty and loss was inevitable if she remained in the village, and she begged her parents to move to Addis Ababa to pursue better opportunities. They sent her to live with her cousin in the outskirts of the city, where she eventually earned enough as a domestic maid to rent a room. When she fell in love with Selshi, he moved in and they made plans for a future together. She gave birth to their son, Abenezer, but she soon realized Selshi was unreliable. She was on her own with their newborn, this time without the help of her family.

Determined to give her son opportunities, Endashash worked two jobs as a day laborer and maid. When he turned 5, she enrolled Abenezer in kindergarten at Repi Primary School and registered for Lelt’s assistance programs when he entered 3rd grade. Abenezer was sponsored through Lelt’s Child Sponsorship Program. He was an outstanding student so Lelt moved him to private school. Abenezer just started 6th grade at Ammanuel Secondary School and is performing at the top of his class. After enrolling in Lelt’s Business Creation Program, Endashash expanded her wholesale vegetable stall at the local market. She said, “I am getting older – I'm 56 now - and so happy that Abenezer has this support. I never stepped foot in a classroom and my boy is going to private school! I believe he will have a future unlike anyone else in my family, and I’m so proud of him.”

Abenezer, center, with friends at Lelt's Community Center

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