More attention imperative for girls` education in new normal

24 January 2021

Prolonged school closure continues to take its toll on the adolescents as many of them think they may not go back to school anymore for learning gap, economic crisis and early marriage. Nine-month closure of educational institutions made the adolescent girls more vulnerable to early marriage. A recent survey showed about 63 per cent of girls think they will not be able to keep up with next grade's lessons. Though child marriage has always been a huge obstacle to development for Bangladesh, now with the Covid-19 pandemic, the situation is even worse. According to a Save the Children global report, an estimated 500,000 girls are at risk of being forced into child marriage. For Bangladesh, the implications are ominous. We have already been burdened with the curse of child marriage. The pandemic has increased this number manifold. So where do we go from here?
When children are forced to marry they are forced to drop out of school and deprived of their childhood. They face the trauma of forced sexual relations. They endure the health risks associated with early pregnancies that may lead to premature, stunted babies and even their own deaths. The long-term effects of child marriage include generations of girls and young women being denied education, health, the right to work and earn and the agency to escape domestic violence.
Against this backdrop we now have a pandemic that has intensified all the factors behind child marriage-poverty, lack of security of girls and the mindset that girls are a burden for parents. In terms of combatting child marriage, we have not been very successful even before the pandemic. Now that we are confronted with the numbers we must act fast now. Financial incentives, income-generating opportunities can be given to families so that it is not poverty that pushes them to get their girls married off. Most of all the government and society must work together to ensure the security of girls and women so that they are not harassed on the streets, subjected to sexual violence and that they can go to school and pursue their dreams. Child marriage is an abusive practice that must be stopped for good.

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