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Kulsma Nur: "My Experience as a Werdwet Research Fellow"

CARD Werdwet Research Fellowship is a research fellowship project created by CARD to promote indigenous knowledge to fight inequality and look for ways of protecting the rights of vulnerable and marginalized groups in Ethiopia. Werdwet Fellowship also gives the youth, especially young women, opportunities to pursue their passion for researching and promoting their ideas to bring about a just society. One of the 2022 CARD Research Werdwet Fellows, Kulsma Nur has launched her research report on the 11th of October 2023 in Semera, Afar Region, with the presence of different stakeholders. Her research is titledWar and Child Marriage: the vulnerability of Girls to Child Marriage due to the War in Northern Ethiopia”.

Kulsma shares her experience as a Werdwet Research Fellow here below.

Kulsma Nur, 2022 CARD Werdwet Research Fellow

When I applied for the fellowship, Ethiopia was entering its sixth month in the midst of the Northern Ethiopian conflict. There were reports of grave human rights violations including sexual abuse by all actors in the conflict. Previously, as a reporter, I shared light on on how rape was being used as a weapon of war. Still, I wanted to dive more into how these events were affecting the lives of communities. Then, Werdwet Fellowship presented a unique opportunity to conduct comprehensive research.

My initial focus was on the impact of conflict on children. In my exploration, I came across an article in the ICRC journal that discussed child marriage during armed conflicts. It revealed a significant research gap in the context of conflict-affected areas, especially in the top 10 countries with the highest prevalence for child marriage.

At the outset, my goal was to investigate all three conflict-affected regions; i.e. Tigray, Amhara, and Afar. However, I decided to focus on the Afar region. It was an underrepresented area in the media and garnered minimal attention. It has the highest rate of child marriage compared to other regions, with little to no prior research on the problem. I wanted to show that meaningful research is possible even in the face of challenges such as conflict.

Throughout the fellowship period, I had to embrace a process of both learning and unlearning. It was crucial to detach my personal biases from the work and let the data guide my research findings.

Leading a research team while learning was indeed a challenge, but I was fortunate to have the unwavering support of my family, friends, and the CARD team. I also am thankful to my research advisor Dr Meron Zeleke who provided me with her comments and feedback.

One of the most profound experiences during this journey was connecting with the affected communities on this sensitive topics. Their resilience in times of hardship and their desire for peace despite the temptation of vengeance was awe-inspiring. They graciously shared their food and opened up about their most vulnerable moments.

One particular encounter remains etched in my memory. I asked young girls in a focus group discussion about their goals: early marriage, education, or both. One of the girls looked at me and said, "I will wait until I finish my education, just like you." That experience left me with a great sense of responsibility to be the best possible version of myself and to continue working with women and girls, particularly in post-conflict settings where the community pays the price long after the war drums have faded away.

In these conditions, the most vulnerable—children and women—bear the brunt of the aftermath, typically through practices such as child marriage. Time is of the essence, and we cannot afford to waste it. Their voices, stories, and dreams deserve to be heard and uplifted.


You can download or read Kulsma Nur's study by clicking here.

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