Child marriage is a significant global issue that disproportionately effects girls in every region around the world. According to ‘Girls Not Brides’, 1 in 5 girls in the world are married before the age of 18, more than 650 million women alive today were married as children and 12 million girls are married before the age of 18 each year.
In context of the work SheRose is doing in Malawi, the data indicates that Malawi is in the top 20 countries with high rates of child marriages; with 42% of girls married before the age of 18.
Research undertaken by the ‘World Economic Forum’ indicates that the current pandemic will dramatically increase the rate of child marriages that take place. Given 213 countries worldwide are currently facing one of the most challenging virus outbreaks to date, ‘World Vision’, an International children’s charity, has anticipated that an additional 4 million girls will be vulnerable to enforced child marriage within the next two years, with the U.N forecasting this figure to reach an extra 13 million by the end of the decade as a result of COVID19.
It is predicted that the current pandemic will result in:
Damaging livelihoods as a result of financial constraints. Due to due a rise in unemployment, families will be left with financial burdens and exacerbating poverty. As a result of which, some families will feel like they have no choice but to marry off their daughter early in exchange for dowries.
The rise in unemployment will also mean families will struggle to pay for school fees once schools reopen.
The risk of an increase in child marriage rates also comes in conjunction with organisations that set out to combat child marriage, finding these unprecedented times extremely difficult to operate business as usual, particularly with strict lockdown measures in place. ‘The World Economic Forum’ alludes to the possibility that decades of campaigning and activism work could be terribly disrupted.
In a rise in child marriages due to school closures, which are often considered safe places for many girls who fear being at home will result in them being forced into child marriages. The current pandemic has meant girls are forced to be away from school and go back home to what are potentially dangerous environments. There are considerable concerns that girls may not return to school when they re-open as they would have entered into marriage during lockdown.
Once schools are re-opened, it is essential for organisations and charities operating in this space to really focus their energy on preventing drop-outs and, as ‘Plan International’ states, this [girls not returning to school] will only intensify gender gaps in education and result in increased risk of sexual exploitation, early and unintended pregnancy, and child, early and forced marriage.
As an instrumental part of combating these inevitable consequences of the pandemic, SheRose is working to ensure that once schools are re-opened, we intensify our work ensure the prevention of girls dropping out of school. SheRose aims to tackle these issues by:
Increasing our sponsorship opportunities to support more girls whose families are facing financial challenges (impacted by Covid-19) and are no longer able to pay for their child’s fees.
Increasing community workshop delivery to emphasise the dangers of child marriages across the entire community, which is a particularly crucial message during this time, when many families might be considering child marriages as a solution to their financial struggles.
Increasing access to/ and education around healthcare, specifically sexual and reproductive healthcare.
‘Girls not Brides’ have also developed a number of insights, resources and recommendations on how to respond to the needs of girls at risk and already married during and post COVID19, which will support charities and organisations with alleviating the immediate and long-term effects facing young girls. You can access the full report here.
If you would like to read more about the impact COVID19 is having and will have on child marriages, check out the resources included below:
It would also be hugely appreciated if you could donate to SheRose, especially during these difficult times. Your donation could go a long way in helping us keep girls in school. Please check out and donate towards our urgent appeal here.
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