“Now that schools are closed, people are saying that it’s a curse on me because I left my husband,” says Maria*.
Maria is only 14 years old. But she’s already been married and divorced.
She lives in Mozambique, which has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. Almost half of girls there marry before they turn 18 years old. The reason behind this alarming rate of early marriages? Poverty.
“My family encouraged me to marry because they are poor and could not afford to pay for school materials for their seven children,” Maria says. “I had to marry early to lessen the burden on them. My ex-husband promised he would provide me with school supplies if I married him. But it was a lie and I missed two years of school.”
Maria was lucky — she was able to get her life back on track after divorcing her husband and reenrolling in school.
But then COVID-19 happened.
Like many girls in Mozambique, and around the world, Maria has been out of school since March. Millions of girls are now at home, and we’re likely to see a surge in the number of child marriages globally.
“Some people in my community are advising young girls to marry because they believe school will not open again this year and we will add extra costs to our poor families by remaining at home,” Maria explains.
In crisis situations, like this pandemic, harmful practices like child marriage, trafficking and gender-based violence skyrocket. Girls and young women are always disproportionately affected by emergencies.
“Two of my cousins, who are 15, are considering finding a husband who can provide for them during this difficult time. And many older men are starting to make these promises to them,” says Maria.
Maria knows firsthand how traumatizing early marriage can be. And for most girls, there’s no turning back after their wedding day.
There is no time to waste. If we want to protect girls from child marriage, we have to work together and we have to act fast.
Plan International has been fighting child marriage for a long time, and the pandemic isn’t stopping us. But we need your support. Girls need your support. Because every day that adolescent girls are out of school, it’s less likely that they’ll ever return.
“When Plan helped me leave my marriage and enroll in school, I realized how much I enjoyed learning,” Maria says. “Being married at such a young age was the worst decision I made. Many more girls will become victims now if they do not receive the same support.”
You can help girls like Maria be students, instead of child brides. Your donation today can help keep their health and futures from being compromised because of COVID-19. Every dollar counts, and every minute matters.
Will you do something life-changing for girls today?
*Name changed to protect identity.