Girls living in a COVID-19 world are likely to experience devastating secondary impacts of the pandemic, a new report reveals.
Research from Plan International Australia that analysed previous crises like the Ebola epidemic, indicates that girls around the world are at higher risk of being permanently pulled out of education and suffering from gender-based violence.
Susanne Legena, CEO of Plan International Australia, says that while we need to be concerned about the immediate health impacts of COVID-19, the fall out of lock downs and school closures could be potentially more devastating.
“We know from our experience in emergencies, that there will be a secondary, longer-lasting and potentially more devastating fallout as a result of lock-downs that have been necessary to slow the spread,” Legena said.
In the current crisis, 743 million girls are out of schooling and many have no or limited access to online resources. The report highlights that in developing countries, once girls have their schooling disrupted, they are likely to never return. Other responsibilities, like caring for family members and earning an income, will take precedence.
Plan International Australia says that authorities must work with schools, teachers and mobile phone companies to make distance education accessible and affordable. It’s also imperative that girls continue to have access to sexual and reproductive health information and services.
Gender-based violence and abuse is also a major risk for girls in lock down. According to Plan International, at the height of the quarantine in China, there was a threefold increase in calls to women’s shelters regarding violence at home.
Girls are also at higher risk of experiencing permanent unemployment, increased pregnancy and child marriages and a lack of access to menstrual hygiene products. They are also more likely to experience food shortages and extreme poverty.
Girls across the globe already face limited access to #SRHR services. During #COVID19 authorities must ensure that these essential services are maintained, to protect the most vulnerable. pic.twitter.com/XaJj1SMELS— Plan International (@PlanGlobal) May 18, 2020
“Without a concerted effort to respond to the specific risks to girls, we face a terrible reality that many of the gains in gender equality and girls’ rights we’ve made over the past few decades will vanish,” Legena says.
“Many governments have quite rightly responded quickly to the spread of COVID-19, with containment measures and lockdowns now affecting at least half the world’s population.”
“But the consequences of these measures will fundamentally affect the world in which girls grow up.”