Forced out of school during the pandemic, now she's pregnant. She's one of millions of girls who won't return to the classroom

Updated 3:40 AM ET, Thu December 24, 2020

CNN is committed to covering gender inequality wherever it occurs in the world. This story is part of As Equals, an ongoing series.

Editor's Note: Bella's voice has been digitally altered to maintain her anonymity.

Bella says her unplanned pregnancy made her mother so furious that she beat her.
She had no idea that the 19-year-old had begun exchanging sex for cash in order to help pay for food for her three younger siblings and two cousins, who live together in a one-room house in a waterfront slum community in Mombasa, Kenya. When Bella came home with rice and other ingredients for dinner at the end of the day, she didn't explain how she had bought them.
"The pandemic broke down the economy, especially for my area. So I had to help in one way or another with expenses," said Bella over WhatsApp. The teen asked that her name be changed to protect her identity.
Before the pandemic, Bella was a sophomore at a high school in the city, where she was an avid history student and enjoyed playing table tennis with friends during breaks between classes. But in March, as Covid-19 spread, Kenya shut down and so did the schools.
Unable to continue her studies remotely due to a lack of electr