Estibel Walelign is a farmer at Yemekat Kebele, Bahirdar Zuria Woreda. He is an active community member and known for his engagement in issues that matter the lives of his community. What he says inspires and shapes those who come in contact with him even for a while.
Estibel was trained by Amref Health Africa’s ‘Power to You(th)’ project to combat against early marriage, unintended pregnancy and female Genital mutilation/cutting (FGM) in his locality and beyond. The training he took equipped him with the knowledge and skills of advocating for the youth regarding harmful traditional practices. After he returned from the training, he didn’t waste time. He rushed to his local authorities and asked for a committee to be set up. He then brought together key players from religious institutions, schools, health centers, police and other relevant government sector offices to join the committee and support his efforts to raise awareness on ‘Power to You(th)’ issues. He pleaded the committee for helping in arranging avenues to educate youth communities.
“I told them about what I had learned. I believed the key issues I was trained in were important and should be implemented immediately. I asked myself how I could quickly act, and how they could assist me,” Estibel said.
“The training I received was an eye opener for me to get to know well the challenges our youth face during the course of their lives. We were trained in a way we could easily comprehend the issues and act to save our youth from traditional harmful practices in our area. The main focus of the training was on how to educate, sensitize, and change the society, especially the youth community; how to stop sexual violence, child marriage, and female genital mutilation. There were several other issues that we have thoroughly gone through,” he added.
The committee he set arranged places where Estibel could reach out to youth communities and raise awareness on the key ‘Power to You(th)’ issues. “We agreed that I would be given a session when there is a meeting or a community gathering; in the schools and other places where young people assemble.”
Then based on the training he received, he began educating and raising awareness. “I strongly believe ending early marriage, female genital mutilation and unintended pregnancy is crucial for our youth to grow healthy and reach their potential,” Estibel remarked.
When he was young, he witnessed many mothers died prematurely because they got married early and became pregnant before their body developed well to hold a baby and give birth. Laboring was tough for them, leading them to fistula and chronic diseases. Those we could have gone to school and pursued their education were left behind. “How can I sit without contributing my own after receiving such a useful training?” Estibel asked himself.
Those young girls whose marriage arranged by parents rush to him to report and get their marriage cancelled. Cases do keep coming to him. He closely works with local authorities, youth clubs and other key actors.
“I am happy to serve our youth, stand for them. I am inspired by the fact that I am accepted as a change agent in my community. I will never rest until I see big changes happening. Now, all my efforts go well, thanks to the support provided by Amref Health Africa’s ‘Power to You(th) project, our kebele authorities, and members of the committee we set up; together we will end early marriage, FGM and unintended pregnancy in our area. This is all what it takes to fight harmful traditional practices,” Estibel noted.