But the dramatically changing climate of earth is also responsible for more insidious, unseen consequences — including an increasing number of child marriages around the world, according to a new report published by The Guardian.
In Malawi, one of the world’s poorest nations, there are 1.5 million girls who are now at risk of getting married before adulthood because of climate change, according to a new reporting projects call Brides of the Sun, an independent investigative project funded by the European Journalism Centre.
Reporters from the project found that in many small villages around Malawi and Mozambique, the extreme weather — floods and droughts — of recent years was leading more families to struggle to afford to feed and house their own children. The poverty was leading to more girls being married young.
Child marriage puts girls at risk of lifelong physical, mental, and economic danger, including sex and pregnancy complications and higher birth and maternal mortality rates. They also frequently drop out of school earlier than unmarried peers and lose out on educational and economic opportunities.
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Carlina and Horacio are a teenage couple who live near a former river in Mozambique. Carlina, noe 15, grew up wanting to become a midwife, she told reporters conducting the research.
“It was never my desire to get married at that young age. I wanted to go to school. But I was forced to by my father. The family didn’t have enough food to survive. So my father accepted the proposal because he couldn’t support me to go to school,” she said.
The pair married when Carlina was 13 and Horacio 14, two years after the river dried up.
“I remember when I saw people here fishing. I used to sell the fish, I took it from the fishermen and went to sell it to the village. There was water everywhere. I remember seeing Horacio with the other fishermen. But without rain, the fish died.”
They had a child earlier this year, but he died when the couple could not afford to go to a hospital with an incubator, according to the report.
“If I was able to feed my children, I wouldn’t have pushed her to get married so young. Look at my other daughters, they grew up, they went to school, they got married at a normal age,” Carlina’s father, Carlitos, told the reporters.
Malawi outlawed child marriage in 2015, though the practice persists. Mozambique, where 70% of the population lives below the poverty line, also has a marriage age of 18, but has one of the highest child marriage rates in the world, according to the report.
Ntonya Sande was 13 when her parents lost their farm to a flood in Kachaso, Malawi, and a young man asked for her hand in marriage. She begged her parents to say no, but they told her they could not afford to feed her any longer.
She had a child just 10 months later, according to The Guardian.
The United Nations has warned that in the coming decades, child marriage rates could spike in Africa, more than doubling to 310 million by 2050, according to UNICEF.
As extreme weather increases around the world in coming years, the need for gender equality enshrined in law will increase with it. Girls, too, deserve a world where they can go to school, earn a decent wage, and live in safety.