Millions of girls in South East Asia and the Pacific are being forced to drop out of school and to enter early marriage due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report.
A report by gender equality charity Plan International Australia revealed that over 1.2 million girls from pre-primary to upper secondary school in East Asia and the Pacific could drop out of school due to the pandemic, adding to the total of 15 million out-of-school girls before the pandemic began.
The report also found that distance learning via TV, radio, or online means did not reach a total of 40 million girls in the region due to unequal access to technology and devices “and/or policies geared towards their needs.”
The report also found that 2.5 million girls are at risk of being forced into marriage by 2025 due to the pandemic.
“Girls forced into early marriage are more likely to experience poverty, violence, and early pregnancy, threatening their lives and their health. It limits their future prospects, denying them access to education and opportunities to gain skilled employment,” the report said.
“At the heart of child marriage is the view that female children are an economic burden. When girls are married, they are viewed as adults and their education typically stops. Your job then is to be a wife and a mother,” Chief Executive Susanne Legena told British newspaper The Guardian.
“We can’t afford to lose a generation of girls to the pandemic,” Legena warned.
In its conclusion, the charity called for donors and governments to “invest in dismantling the barriers to secondary education that have been magnified and exacerbated by COVID-19.”
“Education is everything. It is the quickest path to achieving an equal world for all children,” the charity concluded.
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