We’ve all heard about the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the world in the coming years—but some of the greatest impacts for girls and young women have remained unseen. Learn more.
23 Jun, 2020
Many months ago, nobody could have ever imagined that our world would look the way it does right now.
When the news of COVID-19 broke, it felt like just another story.
Something you see on the front page of the newspaper while you enjoy your morning coffee at your local café. Something you hear about while you cook dinner with the six o'clock news playing in the background. Something that quickly goes away and is seldom spoken of again.
We were certainly wrong. Even if the virus itself hasn't entered your home, the ripple effect that it has caused most likely has.
We've heard a lot about how this pandemic will affect our lives short-term through social distancing and the resulting economic downturn. We've heard about how this will, in turn, affect those in developing nations.
But just how devastating will this pandemic be for girls and young women living in poverty? Here are three of the many harmful, unseen impacts of COVID-19.
1. Child Marriage
In the last few years, humanitarian initiatives to end child marriage have proven to be successful. But as social distancing restrictions are likely to postpone these programs, COVID-19 will reverse recent progress.
The impacts of child marriage are lifelong—lower education and income, higher risk of teenage pregnancy and child mortality, higher rates of abuse, and more.
In Ethiopia, four in 10 girls are married before the age of 18, down from six in 10 in 2005. Already, local authorities in the country's north have stopped more than 500 child marriages since all of the children were sent home from school in mid-March—but the pandemic puts many more at risk.
The United Nations Population Fund reports that the pandemic will result in an additional 13 million child marriages over the next ten years.
That's millions of precious daughters of God that will be subjected to this devastating practice.
2. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that there are over 200 million women and girls alive today who have undergone FGM. Despite recent progress, approximately three million more girls are at risk of undergoing FGM each year.
Many mothers have been subjected to the pain and long-term health risks of the procedure themselves. But FGM is so deeply rooted as a rite of passage that many see putting their daughters through it as their duty.
Humanitarian groups are working to redefine this extremely complex belief through educating mothers and their communities—which has proven to be successful. However, with social distancing restrictions comes reduced opportunity for these programs, which is severely disrupting progress.
The United Nations Population Fund estimates that an additional two million girls will be at risk of undergoing FGM over the next 10 years, as a direct result of COVID-19.
3. Child Abuse and Domestic Violence
"For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest: in their own homes," says António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.
The UN reports that many countries around the world are seeing indications that domestic violence is rising, as calls to helplines and online search volume has increased. With children also out of school, the volume of reported cases may not reflect the true magnitude of the issue.
Furthermore, if girls become orphaned due to the virus, their vulnerability to trafficking and online exploitation will rise—especially given the increase of cybercrime.
What can we do?
Looking at figures like this, it's easy to feel like there's little we can do to help. But as the global Church, we know that there is one thing that is stronger than all of this—the unfailing love of God.
We have a choice. We can choose to sit back, or we can choose to rise as one to care and advocate for the most vulnerable—just as Jesus did.
"Scriptures command us to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves and to advocate for the rights of all those who are destitute (Proverbs 31:8)," says Sidney Muisyo, Senior Vice President of Global Program at Compassion International.
"There can be no greater cause than to advocate for the needs of children, particularly those who are vulnerable. Each one of us can and should act."
Staff from our local church partners across the globe are continuing to support Compassion assisted children and their families with food and hygiene supplies—but they need your help to continue this vital work.
If you are in the position to do so, please give today, to help see vulnerable children and their families through this crisis.
Together, we won't let COVID-19—or poverty—win.
Words by Claire Ince and Richard Miller
Photos by Ben Adams
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