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Halting Lives 2 - In their own voice: girls and young women on the impact of COVID-19

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Executive Summary

Over the last year Plan International has been conducting research into the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of girls and young women. This current study took place, with three sets of data collection, between July 2020 and January 2021. It accompanies an earlier survey,

Halting Lives: The Impact of COVID-19 on Girls and Young Women, carried out in June and July 2020, with 7000 respondents across 14 countries and involves in depth interviews with 74 girls and young women, aged 15-24, across the same 14 countries. The research tracks their experiences of COVID-19 and supplements the statistical analysis with a more granular understanding of the particular impact of the pandemic on girls and young women. What has emerged as the major challenges in girls’ lives? How do they view the future? What measures need to be put in place to make sure that their lives and opportunities will not be irreparably damaged? The pandemic exacerbates pre-existing inequalities which makes girls and young women particularly vulnerable: the research reveals resilience but overwhelmingly it charts the negative effects of this year of COVID-19 on all aspects of their lives.

I learned I am not great at studying and coping with stress. I know it’s been a horrible year for my mental health and it was already horrible going into quarantine, but it’s just been going downhill. CLARA, 16, UNITED STATES

What we have learned

Education, mental health and family income emerged as key overlapping concerns.

Education

Issues with remote learning in terms of access to technology, lack of space to study at home and schools and colleges themselves struggling to adjust were frequently discussed. As were the difficulties many were finding with being able to concentrate and focus when learning from home.

Loneliness and domestic responsibilities also interfered with girls’ and young women’s ability to cope with distance learning.

Mental health

Stress and anxiety were mentioned by the majority of the respondents. They missed their friends, they felt they were failing to keep up with their school or college work, they worried about their friends and family catching the virus and they were anxious about money and the future.

Livelihoods

Family members losing their jobs meant concerns about money for food, education and many of life’s basic necessities and often caused family tensions which added to the mental health problems many were experiencing.

I hardly eat, there are days when I feel like I’m under pressure, I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s a pretty hard sadness, quite strong. ANA, 16, NICARAGUA