Previous health emergencies have shown that girls face a heightened risk of early marriage and pregnancy, especially as they lose access to school, social networks, and critical reproductive health services.
“I want a social system where women and children are completely safe,” says Trisha, 15, in Bangladesh. “Child marriage is a curse for our society. When a girl is a victim of child marriage, she is affected physically and emotionally.”
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.