Field Updates

Meharebe Teen Club 

Story by Wesley Koskei

“There is nothing as important as changing the thinking of people because human beings do everything in light of their thinking.” -Hermela Asrat, 16.

Hermela is fierce and confident when she speaks. She is a student at Asaita High School in the Afar region of northern Ethiopia. The students of Asaita High School are part of the “Meharebe” club, a teenage club supported by Amref Health Africa in Ethiopia through the Power to the Youth program.

In Asaita, people mostly survive through small trades and pastoralism, caring for cattle, goats, and camels. The communities adhere to traditional gender norms, and women and girls still face many challenges, including early marriages, sexual and gender-based violence, and female genital mutilation and cutting. “Even though sexual harassment is always present, we are still here. We live under this threat with caution,” says Hermela, who is with her friends Kadiga and Ahmed, who are finishing their high school education.

Kadiga’s dream is to become a poet. Ahmed would love to be a computer engineer, a passion he speaks to us about deeply. They discuss the importance of self-esteem, acceptance, love, and knowledge. “It’s the challenges that we face that give us confidence,” says Hermela.

 

Teen Clubs: A safe space for teenagers

Meharebe is a two-month learning and teaching program integrated into the school curriculum. The program builds the agency, knowledge, and skills of teenagers, particularly girls at risk of early marriage, unintended pregnancy, Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), and sexual and gender-based violence. It also broadly engages the youth to understand key gender issues and advocate for themselves.

At the Meharebe teen club, teenagers are educated on sexual and reproductive health and engage in discussions about healthy relationships. “In Meharebe, we talk about the joys and difficulties of being a woman in this community,” says Kadiga.

Teen clubs supported by Amref Health Africa address the mental, emotional, and physical health of teens facing various social challenges. In collaboration with passionate teens, the clubs have served as safe spaces for students to express themselves freely, address challenges in their communities, and seek solutions. The clubs have fostered friendships where students rely on each other for moral support on their journey to adulthood.

Kadiga dreams of becoming a poet. Ahmed would love to be a computer engineer, a passion he speaks about deeply. They discuss the importance of self-esteem, acceptance, love, and knowledge. “It’s the challenges that we face that give us confidence,” says Hermela.

Members of Maharebe Teen Club Amref Health Africa/Genaye Eshetu

Teens at risk

In places like Afar, young women and girls are particularly at risk of experiencing sexual and gender-based violence, such as FGM/C and child marriages. Through school teen clubs such as Meharebe, the Power to Youth program empowers adolescent girls and young women to realize their agency, claim their rights, address gender inequalities, challenge gender norms, and advocate for inclusive decision-making.

 

Needs

Girls like Kadiga and Hermela remain vulnerable to risks due to societal inequities. The youth still need more awareness and tools to support them in matters of health and advocacy for equality for girls. “We are fifty or sixty members here, but we are students who are able to change not just 700 people, but 700,000. So support us because we have the capacity to bring change,” says Hermela.