Updated: Feb 3, 2019
Birhane was born in a small town in southern Ethiopia. She grew up with her parents and five siblings, but there was no school in their village so they never received an education. When she was 12, her uncle saw her potential to be a great student so he took Birhane to a neighboring town to receive an education. After a year in Babure School, Birhane was kidnapped in a common practice known as Marriage Abduction. Older men take young girls from their family and claim them as their wife, and the young girls are manipulated and coerced, eventually giving in to their fate. Birhane never saw her family again. Her new husband, Teshale, moved her to Hosanna, where they had two children.
Teshale was drafted into the army and went to the Eritrean border to join the war. Young Birhane was left alone with her two small children, awaiting the return of her husband, but he never came back. She survived by doing small jobs but there wasn’t enough income to make ends meet. Her children didn’t attend school because Birhane couldn’t afford the school registration fee and uniform costs. After several years in this cycle, Birhane wanted a better life for her children. She applied for support from Lelt Foundation’s programs. Now, her daughter, Eyerusalem, attends school and comes to Lelt’s Community Center every day for a nutritious meal and after-school tutoring. The family receives monthly food rations and household necessities, but Birhane says that above all, she is most proud that her children are receiving an education. She wants her daughters to have what was taken from her when she was young. Eyerusalem, who is now 14 years old, is in 7th grade at Beimnet School, and her favorite subject is chemistry. She wants to be a doctor when she grows up.