Pandemic forces 10m girls into early marriage -UNICEF

From Fred Ezeh, Abuja

United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), in a new analysis released yesterday, to mark the International Women’s Day, warned that if urgent action is not taken, 10 million child marriages may be recorded before the end of 2030.

UNICEF said that, globally, an estimated 650 million girls and women were married in childhood, with about half of those occurring in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, India and Nigeria.

UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, in a statement, said that girls who marry in childhood face immediate and lifelong consequences. “They are more likely to experience domestic violence and less likely to remain in school.

“In addition to that, it increases the risk of early and unplanned pregnancy, in turn increasing the risk of maternal complications and mortality. It also isolate girls from family and friends and exclude them from participating in their communities, taking a heavy toll on their mental health and well-being.”

The UNICEF Director said that COVID-19 has made an already difficult situation for millions of girls even worse. “Shuttered schools, isolation from friends and support networks, and rising poverty have added fuel to a fire the world was already struggling to put out. But we can and we must extinguish child marriage. International Women’s Day is a key moment to remind ourselves of what these girls have to lose if we do not act urgently.

“One year into the pandemic, immediate action is needed to mitigate the toll on girls and their families. By re-opening schools, implementing effective laws and policies, ensuring access to health and social services including sexual and reproductive health services and providing comprehensive social protection measures for families, we can significantly reduce a girl’s risk of having her childhood stolen through child marriage.”

UNICEF, in the new analysis also disclosed that, in the last 10 years, the proportion of young women, globally, who were married as children had decreased by 15 per cent, from nearly 1 in 4 to 1 in 5.