Girls and women are the first victims of any calamity, pandemic, or disaster in developing countries like Bangladesh. As it is, they are very often denied health care, are forced to endure child marriage and early motherhood, and are frequently subjected to violence. Given this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic they are now suffering immensely. COVID-19 threatens girls’ rights in countries around the world and will have far-reaching impacts on their health and wellbeing, education, and protection. Self-isolation has increased the rates of gender-based violence. Early marriage and pregnancy are among the drastic effects of school closures and many parents have married off their underage daughters or sold them off to rich families as domestic workers to reduce their economic burden.
The Effects of COVID-19 on Girls
COVID-19 and Urban Métis Girls and Young Women
Carly Jones, Renée Monchalin, Cheryllee Bourgeois, and Janet Smylie
The national COVID-19 pandemic response presents a sharp contrast to the matrilineal social kinship and knowledge exchange systems that Métis women and girls rely on for safety, security, and wellbeing. In this article, we demonstrate that while Métis women and girls have been left out of the national pandemic response, they continue to carry intergenerational healing knowledges that have been passed down from the kokums (grandmas) to the iskwêsisisak (girls). We show how urban Métis girls and women are both managing and tackling COVID-19 through innovative and community-based initiatives like Well Living House and the Call Auntie Hotline.
Experiences of “Left-Behind” Girls in Rural China
“Left-behind” children in rural China are those whose parents seek work in urban areas and leave them behind in their hometowns. In this article, I focus on the experiences of five young “left-behind” girls who were socially isolated because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the Chinese authorities’ instruction to schools to “Stop classes, but don't stop learning,” I examine micro-level data on the tensions and challenges experienced by these girls during the COVID-19 lockdown. I look at how the pandemic has affected these girls in relation to school and family life and suggest that it has exposed and magnified gender inequalities, particularly those related to the maltreatment exerted by their guardians and/or brothers, that have left them even further behind.
Claudia Mitchell and Ann Smith
As with Zika, Ebola, HIV and AIDS, and other pandemics in recent history, girls and young women are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 socially and emotionally if not medically. Some observers have referred to the current crisis as a tale of two pandemics in reference to both the obvious health issues and the pervasive gender inequalities that have become exacerbated, and others have referred to it as “the shadow pandemic” (UN Women 2020: n.p.) in highlighting the negative impact that physical distancing and social isolation are having on already vulnerable girls and young women experiencing sex- and gender-based violence. All over the world girls and young women are facing increasing levels of precariousness as a direct result of the health measures being taken to curb the global transmission of COVID-19. The increasing lack of privacy in the home furthers the practice of cultural forms of patriarchy that lead to violence.
Meghan Bellerose, Maryama Diaw, Jessie Pinchoff, Beth Kangwana, and Karen Austrian
COVID-19 containment measures have left adolescent girls in Nairobi, Kenya vulnerable to negative educational, economic, and secondary health outcomes that threaten their safe transitions into adulthood. In June 2020, the Population Council conducted phone-based surveys with 856 girls aged between 10 and 19 in 5 informal settlements who had been surveyed prior to COVID-19 as part of five longitudinal studies. We performed bivariate and multivariable logistic regression analyses to assess the relationship between COVID-19 outcomes and potential protective or risk factors. We found that younger girls are experiencing high levels of food insecurity and difficulty learning from home during school closures, while many older girls face the immediate risk of dropping out of school permanently and have been forgoing needed health services.
Olga Zdravomyslova and Elena Onegina
In this article we analyse ten structured interviews with girls aged 15 to 19 from Moscow and St. Petersburg. We look at how the girls are dealing with the fundamentally new and dangerous situation created by the coronavirus pandemic and note that they are looking for a social and psychological space for themselves in which they can create and experience stability and safety. They are more concerned about security than ever before, while being, at the same time, very sensitive to restrictions on their freedom and agency. Girls’ clear desire for privacy, fuelled by the pandemic's increasingly rapid invasion of their digital space, reinforces their urge towards agency and their understanding of freedom as autonomy.
Impacts of COVID-19 on Adolescent Girls in Humanitarian Contexts
Sarah Baird, Sarah Alheiwidi, Rebecca Dutton, Khadija Mitu, Erin Oakley, Tassew Woldehanna, and Nicola Jones
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown has shattered the everyday lives of young people, limiting peer interactions and disrupting privacy, with potential for long-term detrimental impacts. This study uses rapid virtual quantitative and qualitative surveys undertaken from April to July 2020 with over 4,800 adolescents affected by displacement in Bangladesh and Jordan to explore adolescent girls’ experiences of social isolation and lack of privacy. Our mixed-methods findings suggest that the pandemic and policy response has caused sharp restrictions on privacy and substantially limited interactions with peers, with larger impacts on girls, particularly those with disabilities. For girls, digital exclusion exacerbates these gender differences. Given that privacy and peer interactions are paramount during adolescence, age-, gender-, and disability-responsive programming is essential to ensure future wellbeing.
Teen Girls’ Online Dating Relationships during COVID-19
Alanna Goldstein and Sarah Flicker
We conducted three online focus groups [n = 25] with teen girls in Canada in May and June 2020 to explore their dating and relationship experiences during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the strict public health measures limiting physical contact, participants reported connecting primarily online with possible dating partners and others. While facilitating platforms, like Snapchat, were already part of these teen girls’ dating and relationships repertoire, many participants reflected on the limitations and drawbacks of being able to connect only virtually. Results suggest the need to better attend to the impacts that COVID-19 restrictions are having on teen girls’ dating relationships, as well as to the larger impacts that the deterioration of these relationships might be having on their mental and emotional health.
Learning from the Testimonios of Young Undocumented Women Advocates
In this article, I discuss the experiences of young undocumented Latinas, aged between 19 and 22, in a university support and advocacy group for undocumented students. While recent research has investigated the advocacy of undocumented youth, there is a lack of attention on the experiences of undocumented women who advocate. To address this gap, I center the testimonios (testimonies) of five young undocumented women to examine their advocacy experiences. As a result of advocacy, the young women gained visibility as immigrant youth leaders, created a pipeline of support for other young undocumented women leaders, and faced disapproval from educators. I conclude by suggesting that schools and educators can foster the leadership of young undocumented women and acknowledge advocacy as a legitimate tool for social justice in education settings.
The Girl and Youth-Led Street Art Movement to #StopStreetHarassment
Natasha Harris-Harb and Sophie Sandberg
The Chalk Back movement that started in March 2016 is a rapidly growing collective of over 150 young activists from around the world. As part of a university class project, Sophie decided to collect experiences of street harassment, write them out verbatim with chalk on the streets where they occurred alongside the hashtag #stopstreetharassment, and post them on the Instagram account @catcallsofnyc. Two years later, the account gained popularity. Other catcallsof accounts opened in London, Amsterdam, Ottawa, Dhaka, Nairobi, Cairo, and Sydney. These accounts, discussed below, are just a few of those spanning 150 cities in 49 countries in 6 continents. We are two Chalk Back members—Natasha from Ottawa and Sophie from New York City—highlighting the risk, empowerment, and power dynamics of what we call chalking back by amplifying the voices of those doing this work around the world.