Child Marriage And HIV: How COVID-19 Is Hindering Progress

Child Marriage And HIV: How COVID-19 Is Hindering Progress

Last month, my county had its 32nd Annual AIDS Walk to pay tribute to those who we have lost, and to support those who are living with HIV/AIDS. Whenever I receive an invitation to this event, I remember a news story I did a decade ago about how child marriage and HIV have common drivers, and what UNICEF was doing to combat child marriage and HIV/AIDS.

Some of the factors that put girls at risk of child marriage also place them at higher risk of HIV infection. These include poverty, low education attainment, and gender inequalities, especially those that limit girls’ ability to make decisions about their own health.

And this year, there is one more factor—COVID-19.

With 25 million child marriages averted in the last decade, UNICEF issued a warning earlier this year that these gains are now under serious threat: 10 million additional girls at risk of child marriage due to COVID-19.

According to the UNICEF analysis, school closures, economic stress, service disruptions, pregnancy, and parental deaths due to the pandemic are putting the most vulnerable girls at increased risk of child marriage.

Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, 100 million girls were at risk of child marriage in the next decade, despite significant reductions in several countries in recent years. In the last ten years, the proportion of young women globally who were married as children had decreased by 15 per cent, from nearly 1 in 4 to 1 in 5. This is the equivalent of some 25 million marriages averted, a gain that is now under threat.

“COVID-19 has made an already difficult situation for millions of girls even worse. Shuttered schools, isolation from friends and support networks, and rising poverty have added fuel to a fire the world was already struggling to put out. But we can and we must extinguish child marriage,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore in a statement.

And the AIDS Walk just reminded me of what these girls have to lose if we do not act urgently – their education, their health, and their futures.  

Here is the situation on our hands. When a girl turns 12 and lives in poverty, her future is out of her control. In the eyes of many, she’s a woman now. She faces the reality of being married by the age of 14 and pregnant by the time she’s 15. If she survives childbirth, she might have to sell her body to support her family, which puts her at risk of contracting and spreading HIV. Definitely not the life we would imagine for a 12-year-old.

There is a solution. Imagine rewinding her to age 12. Have her visit a doctor regularly, and help her stay in school where she’s safe. Then she can use her education to earn a living, avoid HIV, marry and have children when she’s ready, and raise happy and healthy children like herself. Now imagine this solution continuing for generation after generation.

COVID-19 is profoundly affecting the solution and the lives of girls in poverty. Pandemic-related travel restrictions and physical distancing make it difficult for girls to access the health care, social services and community supports that protect them from child marriage, unwanted pregnancy and gender-based violence. As schools remain closed, girls are more likely to drop out of education and not return. Job losses and increased economic insecurity may also force families to marry their daughters off to ease financial burdens.

Worldwide, an estimated 650 million girls and women alive today were married in childhood, with about half of those marriages occurring in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, India and Nigeria. To off-set the impacts of COVID-19 and end the practice by 2030—the target set out in the Sustainable Development Goals—progress must be significantly accelerated.

“One year into the pandemic, immediate action is needed to mitigate the toll on girls and their families,” added Fore in the same statement. “By reopening schools, implementing effective laws and polices, ensuring access to health and social services—including sexual and reproductive health services—and providing comprehensive social protection measures for families, we can significantly reduce a girl’s risk of having her childhood stolen through child marriage.”

Is child marriage a common problem in your part of the world? What can those of us who live elsewhere do to help?

This is an original post for World Moms Network by To-wen Tseng. Photo credit: Raphael Pouget/UNICEF.

To-Wen Tseng

Former TV reporter turned freelance journalist, children's book writer in wee hours, nursing mom by passion. To-wen blogs at I'd rather be breastfeeding. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

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#Moms4MDGs How it Went & the Impact for #SocialGood

#Moms4MDGs How it Went & the Impact for #SocialGood

#Moms4MDGs #MDG6 ResultsSo what kind of impact can you make with a Twitter party for social good?

Last night, after our #Moms4MDGs chat, we ran a TweetReach report.

In the past week, our collaborative efforts under the #Moms4MDGs hashtag have reached over 1.1 million Twitter accounts and made over 5.8 million Twitter impressions. There were also 160 contributors to the hashtag and 569 retweets. Tweeters from North America, South America, Europe and Africa joined in!

The #Moms4MDGs campaign was announced last July at the BlogHER conference’s International Activist’s Panel by World Moms Blog Senior Editor, Purnima Ramakrishnan, in Chicago, Illinois, USA.  We were answering the call to action to keep moms engaged with the world’s goals on topics such as eradicating extreme poverty and empowering women and girls. There are 8 Millennium Development Goals, and we have been covering one per month and have teamed up with a different organization each month that works year-round toward a particular goal.

The topic of yesterday’s #Moms4MDGs chats was on the UN’s Millennium Development Goal #6, to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.  The key to tackling the world’s most pressing problems is teamwork. In the first party, we were joined by cohosts, Multicultural Kid Blogs, InCulture Parent Magazine, Girls Globe and our featured organization of the month, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who tweeted from @gateshealth.

World Moms Blog and our contributors got the party started by welcoming guests!

#Moms4MDGs World Moms Blog Welcome

#Moms4MDGs Documama

#Moms4MDGs Gates Welcome

#Moms4MDGs Sisters From Another Mister

Then we passed the baton to cohost Multicultural Kid Blogs, who educated us on the targets for HIV/AIDS and statistics on progress and what still needs to and can be done to fight the disease.

#Moms4MDGs Multicultural Kid Blogs HIV/AIDS

#Moms4MDGs Think Ten HIV/AIDS

Multicultural Kids #Moms4MDGs HIV/AIDS Question

(By the way, the answer is c.)

This was a very popular and important tweet from the HIV/AIDS discussion:

#Moms4MDGs Gates Health HIV/AIDS

Next, the baton was passed to cohost InCulture Parent Magazine, who announced the targets for malaria, the seriousness of the disease, and what can be done to help.

#Moms4MDGs InCulture Parent Malaria

The UN Foundation and their campaign, Nothing But Nets, entered the twitter feed, which was really helpful to the conversation.

#Moms4MDGs UN Foundation

Nothing But Nets #Moms4MDGs Bed Nets

And the smart people chimed in!

#Moms4MDGs Nelly Lukale HIV Malaira Quote

Great tweets on malaria from the PM chat:

#Moms4MDGs Clean Birth Malaria

#Moms4MDGs Emma Salor Malaria

#Moms4MDGs Erin Threlfall Malaria

Some moms were already connecting with Nothing But Nets during the chat about getting their children involved in #MDG6! (This made us feel great!!)

#Moms4MDGs Taking Action on Malaria

#Moms4MDGs Diana On Malaria

And more great conversations!

#Mom4MDGs Playtime Malaria Prevention And…

#Moms4MDGs Culture Beliefs Medicine

Then, cohost Girls Globe took the baton and asked the party some powerful questions to stir up ideas and action towards #MDG6.

Girls Globe #Moms4MDGs World Moms

The Shot@Life campaign was also present and invited people to join them in the fight against disease and to become a Shot@Life champion when Girls Globe asked how moms of the world could get involved to reach #MDG6 goals.

Shot@Life #Moms4MDGs Be a Champion

And Girls Globe brought up tech and MDG goals!

Girls Globe #Moms4MDGs Tech

#Moms4MDGs Emily Bosworth #Mhealth

Our interview was cut short during the first party with @gateshealth, but it left everyone something to come back for later that evening! Later, we learned how the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation came about and more about their global blog, Impatient Optimists.

Gate Health Impatient Optimists Tweet

And, they provided a mind-blowing statistic on polio, given that India was just declared polio-free for 3 years in a row this week.

Gates Health #Moms4MDGs Polio Stat

But, perhaps, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s biggest, most powerful message on #MDG6 was this:

Gates Health #Moms4MDGs Global Health Tweet

With two months still left in the 8 month #Moms4MDGs campaign, we are thrilled about how much MDG8, a global partnership for development, has played a role in all the parties throughout.  World Moms Blog is proud to be meeting interesting people on Twitter, connecting with other websites geared up to make a difference and partnering and featuring foundations that are making year-long contributions to the vital goals to end extreme poverty and increase global health that the world has set.

#Moms4MDGs Lauren Supina Quote

Our next twitter party takes place on February, 15th, 2014 on MDG7, the environment from 1-2pm EST.  We hope you will come out and join the momentum. Mark your calendars…!

This is an original post by World Moms Blog Founder, Jennifer Burden in New Jersey, USA. 

Photo credits to the author. 

Jennifer Burden

Jennifer Burden is the Founder and CEO of World Moms Network, an award winning website on global motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. World Moms Network writes from over 30 countries, has over 70 contributors and was listed by Forbes as one of the “Best 100 Websites for Women”, named a “must read” by The New York Times, and was recommended by The Times of India.

She was also invited to Uganda to view UNICEF’s family health programs with Shot@Life and was previously named a “Global Influencer Fellow” and “Social Media Fellow” by the UN Foundation. Jennifer was invited to the White House twice, including as a nominated "Changemaker" for the State of the World Women Summit. She also participated in the One Campaign’s first AYA Summit on the topic of women and girl empowerment and organized and spoke on an international panel at the World Bank in Washington, DC on the importance of a universal education for all girls. Her writing has been featured by Baby Center, Huffington Post,, the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life, and The Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists.” She is currently a candidate in Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in the Executive Masters of Public Affairs program, where she hopes to further her study of global policies affecting women and girls.

Jennifer can be found on Twitter @JenniferBurden.

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AIDS: The End Is in Sight

AIDS: The End Is in Sight

December 1st is World AIDS Day. As a tribute, our World Voice writer, Lauren, submitted this post.

They cry and yearn to be held, but there are not enough arms to hold them.  Many of them have watched their parents die.  Some have parents who are too sick to care for them.  But all of them want the same thing—to be loved and to know that they matter.

They are just like you and me, but they are the tiniest victims of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  Some, like their parents, are HIV positive.  Others are considered lucky and have escaped infection.  All are residing in an orphanage with a future that is uncertain.

How do I know what an AIDS orphan wants and needs? Because on a hot August Day in 2008, I stood inside an orphanage that houses orphans affected by HIV/AIDS and I held my son for the first time.  So it should come as no surprise that tomorrow, on World AID Day, I will join millions of people around the globe to unite in the fight against AIDS.

World AIDS Day aims to educate, inform and empower people to join the effort to bring an end to the AIDS epidemic.According to UNAIDS, more than 34 million people are currently living with HIV/AIDS and a staggering 3.3 million of them are under the age of 15.  The HIV/AIDS epidemic claims the lives of 1.7 people each year.  With 2.5 million new infections occurring annually, the epidemic is far from over.

But there is hope.  (more…)

Lauren @Hike.Blog.Love. (USA)

Lauren is a lover of nature, an avid hiker and mama to two boys adopted from across the globe—one who happens to have autism. She is passionate about special needs adoption and the great outdoors.

You can find Lauren blogging about all of her adventures at "", Hike Blog Love. where she hopes to inspire others to get outdoors and explore. She fiercely believes that adventure is for all.

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