‘She is gone. Forced marriage. We can talk soon?’
I read the text again, as the knot in my stomach grew. I knew too much about this amazing young woman to not feel personally affected – and ill.
The text came from our director in Ethiopia, while I was on the subway in New York. Knowing I would soon lose service, I simply replied ‘yes’ and used my commute time to begin mapping out a strategy. We had to get Meseret back before any official arrangements were made in her village. She escaped this once before, prior to entering our program, and it was doubtful she would a second time.
Since entering Training for Tomorow, Meseret attends school full-time, maintains an A average, is regularly seen giggling with friends and walks with the typical unsettled confidence of a teenage girl. Within minutes of speaking with her, she appears much older than her peers.
At 12, Meseret ran away from her countryside home after learning her parents had promised her in marriage. She was unaware of what was next, but knew that leaving was her only option if she was going to fulfill her dream of attending college. When reaching the city, she lived on the streets until finding various house servant positions, which provided a roof over her head and some schooling.
This girl is so special and has wanted nothing more than an education from a young age. She saw what happens in her community when girls marry young. Her sister was forced into a child marriage, dropped out of school, gave birth when her body was not fully developed, faced many health scares and was abused by her (much older) husband. Meseret’s nieces will likely repeat the cycle.
I rushed from the subway to the street, waiting for my spotty wifi to resume so I could call our director. We would move respectfully and strategically, to save face with the family while moving Meseret to a safe place. The positive relations our director had established with her family would now be pivotal.
What followed…after productive negotiations with close family members, our team was preparing to make the two-day journey to Meseret’s home. And then it happened. Meseret walked into our training center! ‘I know my life will change if I can finish my courses with Training for Tomorrow. I might still go to college, yes?’
Thank you to every supporter who has championed our cause along the way. Through this support, you’re creating a platform where girls are realizing they have options. Challenges are being turned into opportunities.
#conservelife #TrainingForTomorrow #LetGirlsLearn