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Kokums to the Iskwêsisisak

COVID-19 and Urban Métis Girls and Young Women

Carly Jones, Renée Monchalin, Cheryllee Bourgeois, and Janet Smylie

Abstract

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.

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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.