Media Coverage

Population Council’s Ethiopia “Child Marriage Prevention” Expertise Takes Center Stage

Photo credit: (Courtesy of Malin Fezehai / Malala Fund)

The Population Council has been conducting high-quality research to determine what works and what doesn’t work to empower girls and prevent child marriage for years. That expertise and our research in Ethiopia took center stage in a BBC World Service feature, in a featured piece at Voice of America, and in a blog post featuring Malala Yousafzai and her girls’ education advocacy organization, the Malala Fund.

The BBC World Service highlighted the Population Council’s Berhane Hewan program in Ethiopia as part of its “People Fixing the World Series.” The radio and video segments highlight how the girl-centered program and its solar lantern provision component, which is supported by USAID, have helped reduce child marriage rates and increase girls’ education rates in the Ethiopian communities where it has been implemented. 

“The Berhane Hewan programme, meaning ‘Light for Eve’ in Amharic, promises families a solar-powered light if their daughter remains unmarried and in school until she’s at least 18. This approach is known as a conditional asset transfer. The solar lanterns enable girls to study after dark and they can also be used to charge mobile phones, which is particularly useful in remote areas with no electricity. Girls are taught to make money from the lanterns by charging neighbours to power up their mobile phones too.”

Voice of America, the largest U.S. international broadcaster, also featured the Population Council's Berhane Hewan program in Ethiopia a segment called "Searching for Solutions," which elevates approaches that foster information, skills and networking – and engage communities — make headway against child marriage. The reporter, Carol Guensburg, spoke with Annabel Erulkar, Ethiopia country director, about the program's approach and success. 

“'Interventions that really focus on building girls’ assets … can be very effective in convincing communities to take other alternatives and marry their daughters later and keep their daughters in school,' says Annabel Erulkar, Ethiopia country director for the Population Council. She helped design the Berhane Hewan project. Erulkar, a social scientist who has worked extensively in sub-Saharan Africa, says strategies should be tailored to a community’s specific needs and based on evidence. She encourages local dialogue, so 'the issues are coming from the community, and the solutions are coming from the community.'"

Malala Yousafzai, her father Ziauddin, U.K. Board Chair Mabel van Oranje and Malala Fund staff travelled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to learn directly about ongoing efforts to empower girls and improve their lives in the capital city. Malala met with Population Council staff, including Ethiopia country director Annabel Erulkar, as well as participants in the Biruh Tesfa project, which provides marginalized girls, including migrants and domestic workers, with basic life, literacy, and numeracy skills.

Watch or listen to the BBC segments, read more at Voice of America, and read more about Malala Yousafzai’s trip to Ethiopia.