Real Girls, Real Stories: Escaping Child Marriage and Poverty Through Education

Nov 3, 2010

This story was written by Girl Up, a U.N. Foundation campaign that is “for girls, by girls.” Girl Up is uniting girls to change the world.

By giving a "High Five" ($5.00) to girls in developing countries, you can make a difference in the life of a girl today. Funds provide basic but critical things such as access to school supplies, clean water, life-saving health services and safety from violence.

Here are some of the amazing young women benefiting from your support.

By giving a High Five, you can help girls like Tigist get an education. (Photo: David Evans)


Fleeing an arranged marriage, Tigist left the Amhara region of Ethiopia when she was just 14 years old. Her parents never knew she was leaving.

She'd heard about opportunities in Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa and traveled there by bus. She knew no one in the city and was soon found by brokers who connected her to an employer in need of a house girl.

For five years, Tigist has been living in the Merkato slum area working as a domestic servant and selling fried potatoes, earning a few cents every day. She does not fear dying, but fears getting sick. She has no one to take care of her.

One year ago, her life changed. A mentor convinced her employers to let her attend the Biruh Tesfa school, a program supported by Girl Up that provides out-of-school girls a safe place to become educated, learn life skills, and receive health education and services.

With just six months left in the program, Tigist’s eyes light up talking about how much she has learned. She dreams of becoming an engineer.

Hajira and many other girls benefit from Girl Up and the U.N. Foundation. (Photo: Girl Up)


Hajira, 21, lives near Zomba, the former capital of Malawi, in the southern region of the country.

When she was finishing elementary school, both Hajira's parents sickened. As the oldest girl in her family, she took care of them. When her parents died, she dropped out of school to raise her four younger siblings. Today, Hajira is married and has three children of her own to raise.

One day, as she walked past the local health clinic, she saw a woman placing tile on the roof. Hajira was inspired to see this woman working alongside a male crew.

Through a youth club, she found out that a U.N.-sponsored program run by a local organization called Development Aid From People to People (DAPP) was offering vocational training to young people who had missed out on their elementary school education. She applied, was accepted, and is completing her studies in the male-dominated field of carpentry.

Hajira wants to be a successful carpenter so she can ensure that her three children have the best chance to finish school. How does her husband feel about her new career? It’s not a typical path for a Malawian woman. “He’s fine with my choice and sees that this will help us provide for our children,” Hajira says.

When she finishes her carpentry course, rather than immediately opening her shop, Hajira plans to survey other carpenters in her area to see what they currently produce, what they do well, and what mistakes they make. That way, she can target her products correctly and avoid pitfalls that could damage a new business.

Thoughtful, multi-tasking and trailblazing: Hajira is truly a successful businesswoman in the making!

Quick Study: Women's Rights

Related Stories: VIDEO: If We End Child Marriage, How Will the World Change? | The U.N. Pushes for No More 6-Year-Old Brides in Ethiopia

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