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Empowered girls lead the way to innovative and impactful solutions in the midst of COVID-19

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As the world celebrates International Day of the Girl this Sunday 11 October, CARE calls for girls’ voices to be amplified, and for them to shape prevention and response interventions in the fight against COVID-19.

Geneva, 9 October 2020 - Adolescent girls are facing unprecedented challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including interruptions in essential services and an increased risk of experiencing negative health, education and psychosocial outcomes at a critical time in their lives. However, in communities from Colombia, to Niger, Malawi, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Somalia, girls are also coming up with innovative solutions to share life-saving information, continue learning, and shape the nature of prevention and response programs.

Debbie Landis, CARE Senior Gender in Emergencies Policy Specialist says, “The COVID-19 pandemic places a generation of young people – especially girls – in a particularly vulnerable situation, as their ability to access essential health, education, and protection services are limited, and the dynamics of the crisis create new risks to their safety and well-being. As in the case of other crises, adolescent girls are often a ‘hidden’ group, with limited data available on their situation, and insufficient attention paid to their needs in response plans and in the priorities of donors.”

“Despite these issues, we are seeing that when the voices of girls are amplified, and when girls are given opportunities for meaningful participation, they can shape the future in powerful ways,” adds Landis.

Examples from CARE’s work around the world has shown that girls are vital to shaping the nature of the COVID-19 response— from engaging in assessment, planning and accountability processes, to informing the design of prevention and response programs, to engaging in outreach and advocacy efforts with their peers and broader communities.

Adolescent girls are also often best-placed to help share information in new and innovative ways. In Niger, for example, girls supported by CARE are helping to spread essential information on available services for survivors of gender-based violence. In other countries such as Mali and India, girls are leading in information sharing and peer support through WhatsApp groups, phone calls and text messaging.

"I have come to realize that the restriction of mobility is the biggest issue that girls in my community face,” says Puja Gupta, a youth activist from Nepal. “This restriction results in girls getting confined into their houses, not getting the opportunity for education, facing gender-based discrimination and most likely getting married early. We believe that if we do not speak up for ourselves, no one else will. So, we have started to do something about it."

Some further examples of the role played by adolescent girls in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic include:

In Burundi, CARE organized a social innovation challenge for youth-led and civil society organizations to rapidly identify solutions to respond to the health and rights of vulnerable communities during COVID-19, especially in camps for refugees and internally displaced persons.

In Bangladesh and Nepal, young girls in Tipping Point - a CARE-supported project - have engaged in data collection efforts in hard-to-reach communities to build knowledge on the needs and experiences of adolescent girls during the pandemic.

In Colombia, adolescent girls are working to promote continued access to essential health services. In partnership with adolescent leaders, CARE is working to implement a community awareness campaign to provide information on adolescent health through murals, plays, social medial, and health fairs.

“Promoting the leadership and participation of girls has been an essential component of CARE’s work across all sectors, and this emphasis has only increased in importance since the start of the pandemic,” says Landis. “As the world faces an unprecedented challenge, these results remind us of the powerful potential of adolescent girls – and of the value of investing in them,” she adds.