Family marries daughter in COVID-19 to ease finances

Koidu, Sierra Leone (AP)-The first man to catch a glimpse of Marie Kamala, who ran with her friends past her home near an elementary school in the village. Shortly thereafter, he proposed to fifth grade.

“I’m going to school now. I don’t want to get married and stay home,” she told him.

However, the pandemic pressure in this remote corner of Sierra Leone was greater than the high school girl wanted. The nearby mining business was slowing down with the global economy. The business fell at her stepfather’s tailor. The family needed money.

Her suitor was a poor miner in her mid-twenties, but his parents provided rice to Marie’s four sisters and were able to access a drinking fountain. They were able to pay cash.

Eventually, Marie wore a new dress and sat on the floor mat, and the family presented 500,000 Leon ($ 50) in a Calabash bowl with traditional kola nuts.

“The day they paid me was Friday, and then I went to stay at his house,” she said flatly, adding that she eats at least twice a day now.

While many countries have made progress in recent decades against traditional and trade marriages of girls, the economic turmoil of COVID-19 has caused a significant setback: the United Nations COVID-19 It is estimated that the difficulties caused by the marriage of 13 million girls before their age 18.18.

Most of these marriages are done in secret, but Save the Children will marry nearly 500,000 girls under the age of 18 this year alone, mostly in Africa and Asia. I presume that there is a risk. Earlier this year, staff in a remote location in Sierra Leone heard the voices of relatives marrying an eight-year-old girl, according to one aid organization. When disciplined, my grandmother later denied doing so.

In most cases, poor parents receive dowry for their daughter. For example, land or livestock that can earn income, or a promise to take over the financial responsibilities of cash and the young bride. Second, the girl undertakes household chores for her husband’s family, often undertaking farm work.


This story was created with the support of the Pulitzer Prize Reporting Center.


As the coronavirus spread rapidly around the world, so did the financial difficulties. In late March, India’s strict blockade to contain the virus left millions of poor migrants out of work. Marrying a young girl has become a more viable option to reduce costs as schools are closed and pressure on households increases.

Childline India has counted 5,214 marriages in just a four-month blockade across India from March to June 2020. The organization states that this is highly underestimated, as the majority of cases have not been reported.

Interventions can be effective in preventing marriage, even if they are illegal. Bangladeshi child protection officials said they had called in June at 8:30 pm to warn that child marriage would take place within an hour.

As soon as the official arrived, the groom and his family fled. The family said they were desperate because their father was absent from work due to the COVID-19 crisis, but promised not to proceed with the wedding.

Then they simply waited for the officials to leave and held the ceremony at 2am.

In Sierra Leone, the marriage rate under the age of 18 dropped from 56% in 2006 to 39% in 2017. This is a great achievement for child protection activists.

However, since the pandemic began, most marriages have not even included ceremonies at local mosques or churches. Traditional leaders say that parents simply accept the suitor’s proposal and deliver the daughter to the groom’s house.

The willingness to sacrifice her daughter underscores the difficult lives of many young girls in this part of Africa. They are seen primarily as children to help with household affairs and are often eaten last at meals until they are sent out to collect firewood and water at sunrise and with their husbands to do the same chores.

Kadiatu Mansarai, now 15 years old, is uncertain how much money was offered to her widow’s mother for the bride’s price. She cried too much at the ceremony and couldn’t see straight.

“I wasn’t ready to get married. I wanted to learn something first,” she says.

Divorce came as early as marriage. A month after leaving her husband, Kadiatu’s left eye is still black after the last beating. He said her crimes shared their limited food with others.

On rare occasions, some teenagers can escape early marriage with the help of supportive relatives, but the support is often temporary.

Naomi Monde was only 15 years old and had just finished fifth grade when her parents said she couldn’t afford to go to school anymore. A man from neighboring Liberia, who works in the timber trade, provided her with a bag of 50 kilograms of rice to a family short of cash.

“They said:’Naomi, you now know our situation. There is nothing, and there is a man who wants to marry you and help you,” she recalled. .. “They told me they wouldn’t take care of me anymore if I rejected him.”

Naomi didn’t know her age or that she already had one wife. After getting married, her husband often left her alone without money for food.

In November, she was able to take a motorbike taxi to Koidu, the largest nearby town that her aunt would be happy to take. Parents said they could stay for now while trying to solve the problem. Naomi, however, is determined that she ended up with her husband.

“There is nothing that will bring me back to him because I have more suffering,” she said. “I stand firmly so that I won’t come back.”


Associated Press author Biswajeet Banerjee in Lucknow, India and Julhas Alam in Dhaka, Bangladesh contributed to this report.

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Family marries daughter in COVID-19 to ease finances

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