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How climate change is disproportionately affecting girls in low-income countries

How climate change is disproportionately affecting girls in low-income countries

More extreme weather is taking girls out of school, forcing them into earlier marriages and increasing their exposure to violence

GLASGOW — As Malawi’s minister of education landed in Scotland for COP26, a storm pummeled several villages in her country — and damaged numerous schools she couldn’t afford to lose.

“That was destroying schools where, as minister of education, I’m struggling to provide quality education that protects girls and gives them a chance to become leaders of today and tomorrow,” Agnes Nyalonje said.

In Malawi, only 16 out of 100 children enroll in secondary school, with girls as a small proportion. Even at those enrollment rates, they are still short of 30,000 classrooms and are struggling to build more infrastructure.

“When the schools got destroyed, I’m sitting there thinking now I’m going to this climate change conference, I am going to talk about how to protect girls,” said Nyalonje, who spoke on Friday’s COP26 panel about education and gender equality. “Climate change events such as this storm that hit Malawi on Monday sets me back every time it happens.”

Across the world, many types of extreme weather are becoming more frequent and intense. In low- to lower-middle-income countries, these events are disproportionately affecting girls and young women. Often, they must drop out of school after infrastructure is damaged or skip school to help recoup losses at their homes or fields that were affected.

“We cannot hope to build resilience for the decades ahead unless we educate all children. This especially is true for girls,” said Nobel Peace Prize laureate and education activist Malala Yousafzai, via video conference at the panel. “Education prepares women to develop climate solutions, secure green jobs and address issues at the heart of this crisis.”

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