This blog was previously published on ONE.
Ashlegh Pfunye and Iyunoluwa Ademola-Popoola are Youth Leaders for Global Partnership for Education. They raise awareness of the barriers to education and aim to increase the ambition of leaders for financing education and development.
It is undeniable that COVID has altered how we live and work. Lives continue to be lost, and hospitals and health workers have been overwhelmed with patients suffering from the virus. Though efforts such as social distancing, wearing of masks, and bans on large gatherings have been implemented to curb the spread of the pandemic, specific measures need to be taken to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on girls.
Girls are more vulnerable
Girls’ education has been specifically challenged by the pandemic, especially for girls from low-income households and girls in rural areas. Girls have faced threats including increases in child marriage, teenage or early pregnancy, and gender-based violence. Many girls were married off in exchange for money as a result of the economic effects of the pandemic on families.
The increase in child marriage resulted in an increase in teenage or early pregnancy. There was also an increase in rape cases, which led to unwanted pregnancy, and survivors are more likely to drop out of school. We have seen the impact of these in our communities.
For example, Cecilia, a 17-year-old girl from Tavengerwa village in Gokwe South in Zimbabwe, lived with her father and was in grade 1 when the pandemic broke out. As a result of the economic pressure of COVID, she was married off to an elderly man, who already has a wife and two children, as his second wife.
The community facilitator from her village shared that due to school closures many girls are more vulnerable to these situations. Cecilia’s friend and neighbor also got married within a few months of Cecilia’s wedding.