As the pandemic has brought our world’s climate and health crises into sharp relief, the time is ripe to include women’s reproductive rights as part of our climate solutions toolbox.
We are two high school seniors, both age 17, from Chatham County, North Carolina. These days we split our time between online school, our extracurriculars and hanging out with friends. Marriage is the last thing on our minds.
Instead of leaving it to adults to say what is and is not in our best interest, let’s tell them ourselves: End child marriage.
Family planning and sustainable economic growth are two sides of the same coin, and earning an income can be the catalyst for women to find their voices. As the pandemic forces tens of millions back into absolute poverty, it is more important than ever that private and public organizations invest in both.
If we traced mine or any woman’s or girls’ life trajectory, we would find unique experiences and challenges, barriers that we encounter for the mere reasons of our identity. My girlhood in conflict is just one example, one story.
One of the most egregious examples of gender-based violence is child, early and forced marriage. How does one attain her freedoms and rights if she is forced to marry?
The pandemic highlights and exacerbates the challenges women and girls confront in obtaining basic menstrual products and education. One nonprofit working to address this situation is Days for Girls.
COVID-19 has left no one untouched, but it has had an especially pernicious impact on girls—most particularly those from already marginalized communities.
From a dramatic rise in sex trafficking in Malawi, to spiraling rates of sexual violence in India, from subversive restrictions on access to abortion in the U.S. to an increase in teen pregnancy and female genital mutilation in Kenya, it is clear that COVID-19 is an existential threat to gender equality.
New studies by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) reveal the grim consequences of child marriage in the U.S., which occurs at particularly high rates in North Carolina. North Carolina is becoming a common destination for adults to take children when their marriage is illegal in their home states. Between 2000 and 2015, almost 9,000 minors were listed on marriage license applications in North Carolina.
But there’s a simple solution: Set the minimum age of marriage at 18, without exceptions.
Globally, nine out of 10 children are in lockdown in their homes as part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic. But for too many young girls, their homes are not safe places. Experience shows that during health emergencies, children—especially young girls—face increased risk of sexual exploitation and abuse.
Forced marriage is a serious but neglected form of gender-based violence in the United States. And more often than not, it is just one part of a spectrum of other harms that a woman who is forced to marry may face in her lifetime.
Too Young to Wed’s 2018 Girls’ Champion Award winner, Hauwa, bravely took the stage at the 2019 Women Deliver conference and shared her story of survival and courage with the world.