Version française ici – Many articles, reports and studies have discussed about the immediate consequences of COVID-19 and how it reinforce and exacerbate Gender based violence (GBV). However, what about its long-term effects on adolescent girls? This is exactly what an article by Save the Children details. The previsions are scarier than we could have imagined.
We all know how COVID-19 have impacted the world economy, affecting the poorest specially. Even though many girls may not be yet at the age of seeking economic assets, they still are affected by COVID-19’s economic impact. This is because, according to Save the Children, with poverty comes, food insecurity, parents’ inability to take care of their children, thus girls end up being forced to abandon school to help their parents provide for the family.
“The pandemic means more families are being pushed into poverty, forcing many girls to work to support their families, to go without food, to become the main caregivers for sick family members, and to drop out of school—with far less of a chance than boys of ever returning” , said Inger Ashing, CEO of Save the Children International. Thus, it is to be expected that the pandemic will set aback decades of progress realized with regards to girls schooling.
Sexual violence and child marriage
In addition to the impediment of their rights to education, girls face and will be impacted by sexual violence as a consequence of COVID-19. Even though this form of violence has been the toll of many girls prior to the pandemic, “the coronavirus has now led to increased reports of gender-based violence around the world.”, according to Save the Children.
Additionally, Save the Children’ article notes that an estimate of 500,000 of girls are at risk of being the victim of the double GBV of child forced marriage this year 2020. This global effect of COVID-19 on girls’ life will affect 90,000 West and Central African adolescent girls, ranging second behind South Asia with 191,000 girl victims. Worse, the article foresees 61 million child marriages by 2025, which shows an increase of 2.5 million of girls in comparison to the five years estimation-58.4 million- which usually take place prior to COVID-19. Furthermore, the more at-risk girls living in precarious situation due to humanitarian crisis like wars, floods, droughts, earthquakes and disease outbreaks are even at greater risk child marriage.
With exposure to forced marriage and sexual abuse, comes child marriage as one of the consequences feared by child rights advocate. Indeed, the pandemic will expose many girls to child pregnancy, with one million more girls expected to become pregnant in 2020. Here again West and Central Africa is second on the top of list with 260,000 child pregnancy, directly following East and Southern Africa with their number of 282,000. Hence, it is to be expected that these girls are at risk of the known consequences of child pregnancy such as maternal and child death, fistula, school abandonment.
According to the Save the Children, and as it has to be expected, the above-mentioned consequences of COVID-19, specially of child marriage, will “reverse 25 years of progress, which saw child marriage rates decline.” The organization made the following demand to which will all should add our voices: “Raise girls’ voices, Act to address immediate and ongoing risks of gender-based violence, End child marriage, invest in girls now, and Count every girl”
Through these demands, Save the Children ask world leaders to ensure they include girls in all decision making about COVID-19 responses, recovery and beyond, strengthen the capacity of child protect services and those against GBV. They also request the use of law reforms and national action plans to change norms which are the root causes of GBV. Most importantly, Save the Children wants leaders to make new investment to address COVID-19’s impact on girls, as well as use data to include and prioritize the most affected girls, specially those in humanitarian crises context.