Nationwide lockdowns in 194 countries left 1.6 billion children – approximately 90% of the world’s students – out of school by early April. Many girls risk never returning to the classroom, as families turn to child marriage or child labour to ease their economic burdens.
“The idea of not sending girls to school, especially in the area where I live, has really become a part of culture,” says Antsa, 16, in Madagascar.
As COVID-19 tears through communities across the globe, children have become the hidden victims of the pandemic. School closures and other lockdown measures adopted to stem the spread of the virus have cut off millions of children from quality learning, critical vaccines, and nutritious diets.
For girls, disruptions also come at the cost of their safety.
The risk of gender-based violence and harmful practices soars during an emergency – especially for girls living under restricted movement and socioeconomic decline. Many girls kept from school today will never return, their childhood stolen by child marriage or pregnancy.
These are the stories of young girls living through COVID-19 – coping with the fears of child marriage, the struggles of distance learning, and the burden of isolation.