This Life programme opens with a bride in tears: she's only four years old. Another Ethiopian bride, Nibret, is 11, but she is just as traumatized by her wedding to a boy she has never met. And well she may be, since too-early pregnancy could easily cripple or kill her. That's the reality behind the right of women and girls to choice and reproductive health.
The Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association is campaigning for better observance of the legal marriage age. Even priests will bless child marriages, though the Coptic Church claims to uphold the law. Founder member of the Association, Original Georgis, tells terrible stories of injuries to girls through early childbearing: Sewarag developed a fistula - a rupture of the vaginal wall - after having a baby too young. The girls become incontinent and can no longer have sex, so their husbands abandon them. Sewarag was in hospital for a year and nobody visited her. She says: "I hate my life but when I see the others I'm grateful I'm not as ill as them." She will never go back to her husband, and her parents are dead.
In Northern Nigeria it's just as bad - or even worse. Here the local culture sanctions polygamy as well as child marriage. Safia was married at 12 and divorced 10 years later; she had no education or means of earning a living, and she and her children had to go and live with her mother.
The Adolescent Health and Information Project was set up by Mairo Bello to provide education and training for young married and divorced girls. She gives them practical skills to enable them to earn some income and lessons in decision-making, leadership and assertiveness. She wants to make them feel like human beings, not like "dogs that after the day's meal are just given the leftovers".
Mairo's optimistic, because "a lot of the young ones now are fighting back". But to do this, they need some education, and the means to stand on their own feet. Otherwise, like Zadia, they will remain resigned to their fate.