Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to Photo journalist Gethin Chamberlain, crop failures force third world farmers to sell off their kids.
Why climate change is creating a new generation of child brides
As global warming exacerbates drought and floods, farmers’ incomes plunge – and girls as young as 13 are given away to stave off poverty
by Gethin Chamberlain (words and photographs)
It was the flood that ensured that Ntonya Sande’s first year as a teenager would also be the first year of her married life. Up to the moment the water swept away her parents’ field in Kachaso in the Nsanje district of Malawi, they had been scraping a living. Afterwards they were reduced to scavenging for bits of firewood to sell.
So when a young man came to their door and asked for the 13-year old’s hand in marriage, the couple didn’t think about it for too long, lest he look elsewhere. Ntonya begged them to change their minds. She was too young, she pleaded. She didn’t want to leave. But it was to no avail. Her parents sat her down and spelled it out for her: the weather had changed and taken everything from them. There was not enough food to go around. They couldn’t afford another mouth at the table.
That night she lay down in bed for the first time with the man she had never seen before and followed the instructions of her aunt, who had coached her on the important matter of sex. Ten months later, she gave birth to their first daughter.
Everyone has their own idea of what climate change looks like. For some, it’s the walrus struggling to find space on melting ice floes on Blue Planet II. For others, it’s an apocalyptic vision of cities disappearing beneath the waves. But for more and more girls across Africa, the most palpable manifestation of climate change is the baby in their arms as they sit watching their friends walk to school. The Brides of the Sun reporting project, funded by the European Journalism Centre, set out to try to assess the scale of what many experts are warning is a real and growing crisis: the emergence of a generation of child brides as a direct result of a changing climate.
Leaving aside the rather tenuous link between climate and weather, can anyone imagine selling your kid rather than selling the farm if the money runs out?
There is no circumstance under which I could imagine selling a family member to pay the bills. You sell stuff, not people, if you are short of cash.
Farmers in Malawi might have had a hard time lately – the nature of primitive subsistence farming with minimal help from fossil fuel powered farm equipment is regular periods of extreme hardship. But my sympathy is tempered with utter disgust at the Guardian’s efforts to rationalise a backward misogynist culture which considers daughters to be just another chattel to sell to the highest bidder if the money runs out.