“I knew I would be taken from school and leave a life of learning and friends.”

As the oldest child in the family, Melesu was expected to look after her siblings and help her mother run the house. She might make it to school on Monday, but by Tuesday her seat would be empty.

As her attendance became more infrequent, her grades began to slip, and she struggled to keep up with her school work.

Melesu’s parents were struggling to take care of their growing family’s needs. They knew that the wealth gained from a child marriage could transform the future of the whole family.

When Melesu found out about their plan to arrange her marriage, she was shocked. “I felt so afraid and unhappy,” she says. “I knew I would be taken from school and I would leave a life of learning and friends.”

Thanks to her school’s Girls’ Club, Melesu knew that child marriage was illegal – and that she had a chance to stop it. She wrote a letter and placed it in her school’s Letter Link Box, a secure box in her school where girls can discreetly submit their concerns and issues. Soon after she posted her letter, it was read by her teacher, Mastewal, who has been trained by CHADET in supporting vulnerable girls.

Mastewal visited Melesu’s parents and reminded them of the law, telling them that CHADET could help Melesu stay in school by covering her tuition fees.

Melesu’s mother, Bezunesh, values education but felt that poverty had left her little choice. “The fact that I’m not educated really matters,” she says. “That’s why I decided to marry Melesu. With the bride wealth, I could afford to buy the things her younger siblings needed for school. It was important for me that at least some of my children get a proper education.”

Supported by CHADET, Melesu’s parents called off the wedding and Melesu stayed in school. Today Melesu still helps at home, but she’s given time to study and attend tutorials on Saturdays. Both her confidence and her grades have improved. She loves maths and, inspired by Mastewal, she wants to be a teacher in the future.