HOW WILL COVID-19 AFFECT GIRLS AND YOUNG WOMEN
Frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 pandemic and how it will impact girls and young women.
WHAT IS CORONAVIRUS / COVID-19?
Coronavirus is an infectious disease caused by the COVID-19 virus.
The virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes
Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment.
Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.
HOW CAN WE PROTECT OURSELVES AGAINST COVID-19?
The best way to prevent and slow down transmission is to be well informed about the COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes and how it spreads.
Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol based rub frequently and not touching your face. Practice social distancing where possible and self-isolate if you start to show symptoms such as: fever, tiredness, dry cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, aches and pains.(Source: WHO).
Children’s perception of staying safe from COVID-19
HOW ARE CHILDREN AFFECTED BY COVID-19?
Disease outbreaks affect girls and boys, women and men differently. While children’s health appears less impacted by COVID-19 than older adults, children’s education will be interrupted, protective structures disrupted and their families and communities placed under stress by health and economic burdens.
Children are also at risk of psychological distress at times of crisis as well as increased risk of violence, abuse exploitation and neglect.
EDUCATION AND COVID-19
Out of the total population of students enrolled in education globally, UNESCO estimates that over 89% are currently out of school because of COVID-19 closures. This represents 1.54 billion children and youth enrolled in school or university, including nearly 743 million girls. Over 111 million of these girls are living in the world’s least developed countries where getting an education is already a struggle.
As COVID-19 forces 743 million girls out of school in 185 countries, we are concerned that rising drop-out rates will disproportionately affect adolescent girls. This will only exacerbate gender gaps in education and lead to increased risk of sexual exploitation, early and unintended pregnancy, and child, early and forced marriage.
Children perceptions on COVID-19
Governments must take steps to mitigate the effects of school closures on girls, boys and their families.
Education authorities and schools must ensure education continues in the event of school closures. Schools that remain open should be supported to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19, with attention paid to protecting students and staff from discrimination and stigma associated with infection.
- CHILD PROTECTION AND COVID-19
Disease outbreaks and the measures taken to control them can increase children’s risk of violence, abuse, exploitation or neglect. Essential ongoing support and case management for vulnerable and at-risk children may be blocked by social distancing measures.
National and local responses must assess and address those risks, including in quarantine situations and in communities facing restrictions on movement.
HOW ARE GIRLS AND WOMEN AFFECTED BY COVID-19?
Disease outbreaks increase girls’ and young women’s duties caring for elderly and ill family members, as well as for siblings who are out of school.
Girls, especially those from marginalised communities and with disabilities, may be particularly affected by the secondary impacts of the outbreak.
- GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE AND COVID-19
Quarantine measures imposed as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic are putting girls and women at heightened risk of violence in the home and cutting them off from essential protection services and social networks.
Economic stress on families due to the outbreak can put children, and in particular girls, at greater risk of exploitation, child labour and gender-based violence. Quarantine measures should be accompanied by support for affected households.
Global lockdowns also lock down girls’ autonomy, reinforcing the attitudes and practices that regard girls as second class and hold them back.
Rigorous protection and safeguarding of all children, and of girls and women from gender-based violence must be emphasised and prioritised in all policies, information, guidance at all stages of the response.
- HEALTH SERVICES
Evidence from past epidemics indicates healthcare resources are often diverted from routine health services. This further reduces the already limited access of many girls and young women to sexual and reproductive health services, as well as maternal, new-born and child health services.
Challenges in accessing sexual and reproductive health information services – including contraception, safe abortion and HIV medications- will exacerbate the risks to girls’ and women’s health and lives. Sexual and reproductive health and rights must not be de-prioritised by governments. They are essential life-saving services which need to be part of the critical response to this crisis.
- ECONOMIC WELL-BEING
Economic challenges during the outbreak pose a serious threat to young women’s work and business activity and expose them to increased risk of exploitation or abuse. Girls and young women facing severe economic shocks are more likely to take on high-risk work for their economic survival. Responses to the outbreak must protect and support young women’s economic empowerment.