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Left Behind by COVID-19

Experiences of “Left-Behind” Girls in Rural China

Jue Wang

Abstract

“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.

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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.

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The Men and the Boys, Twenty Years On

Revisiting Raewyn Connell's Pivotal Text

Victoria Cann, Sebastián Madrid, Kopano Ratele, Anna Tarrant, Michael R.M. Ward, and Raewyn Connell

It is twenty years since the publication of Raewyn Connell's highly influential text The Men and the Boys. This book, building on feminist and pro-feminist perspectives of gender formation, was written over a ten-year period from the late 1980s to the late 1990s. It was published five years after the release of the groundbreaking text Masculinities (1995) and tackled multiple issues concerning boys and men. While providing an important platform and summary of where the research from the social science and humanities on men and masculinities stood in the year 2000, the book also contained a theoretical framework for understanding men and masculinities as part of gender relations. Importantly, the future direction of the field was outlined, and suggestions were made as to likely future agendas. These subjects included investigating the implications of globalization and its different characteristics on gender formation, the role of men's bodies, the impact of the media and culture in men's lives, sexuality, education, health, politics, change, violence, and peace. In recent years, questions about the lives and experiences of men and boys continue to raise remarkable media interest, public concern, and controversy on a global scale. Global changes in practices of knowledge have ensured that across the humanities and social sciences, research in the field of masculinities (of all ages) has continued to flourish and expand.

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Meghan Bellerose, Maryama Diaw, Jessie Pinchoff, Beth Kangwana, and Karen Austrian

Abstract

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.

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Olga Zdravomyslova and Elena Onegina

Abstract

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.

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Social Isolation and Disrupted Privacy

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

Abstract

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.

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“Some Things Just Won't Go Back”

Teen Girls’ Online Dating Relationships during COVID-19

Alanna Goldstein and Sarah Flicker

Abstract

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.

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Michael R. M. Ward

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Claudia Mitchell

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Personal, Powerful, Political

Activist Networks by, for, and with Girls and Young Women

Catherine Vanner and Anuradha Dugal