A new study by humanitarian and girls’ rights organization Plan International Philippines revealed how the Covid-19 pandemic systematically impacts the lives of girls and young women – from magnifying existing social inequalities, disrupting education and work, increasing vulnerabilities to violence, to affecting their mental health and wellbeing.
A perception survey conducted over 1,203 girls and young women aged 13 to 24, “Through her lens: The impact of Covid-19 on Filipino girls and young women” provides a closer look at the effects of Covid-19 as experienced by Filipino girls and young women.
The survey revealed that amid the pandemic, girls and young women are most concerned about their mental health, sexual and reproductive health, education; the disruption in economic activities causing job insecurity; food security, and violence everywhere.
In fact, they are more worried about these issues than they are about being infected with Covid-19.
Seven in 10 (71 percent) girls and young women surveyed cited education as the aspect of their lives most impacted by Covid-19. Forty-nine percent said they are worried by the “slim chances of returning to school.”
Most girls and young women also said the pandemic has also been affecting their physical and emotional health, economic capacity, mental health, and social skills and capacity.
“The pandemic has caused great anxiety and stress on girls and young women. Beyond the risk of getting infected, they worry about their families, about not having money to buy food and other basic necessities, and that their education would have to stop,” says Ana Maria Locsin, Plan International Philippines country director.
“If we do not address these issues, their ability to cope with and recover from the impact of this pandemic will be adversely affected.”
Findings also showed that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused violence both online and offline against girls and young women to spike.
Verbal violence is the most prevalent type of VAWG observed, followed by emotional violence, physical violence, sexual harassment, and online sexual exploitation.
As for the violence observed in social media or television, the most common type of violence observed is cyber bullying, followed by trolls and fake news; sharing and/or posting of indecent photos, videos, or messages; online sexual harassment, and messages of threats and violence.
While Covid-19 affects everyone, the survey showed it exacerbates inequalities and poverty for marginalized girls and young women. Filipino girls and young women who are from low- and middle-income families said they suffer more from income loss, food insecurity, inability to continue education, and heightened tensions at home which may result to domestic and gender-based violence.
The survey also revealed a major gap in social protection and relief assistance for girls and young women. While the majority of surveyed girls and young women said their families are receiving relief assistance from the government and the private sector, the assistance excludes their needs.
In the eyes of girls and young women, the impact of Covid-19 goes far beyond the infection and spread of disease. The impact cuts across education, mental health, economy, and child protection and safety.
Filipino girls and young women believe that the government, private sector, and civil society should work together to provide mental and emotional support, including psychosocial and wellness programs; hygiene kits and sexual and reproductive health services, and protection programs to prevent harassment and violence; and provide access to a safe platform where girls and young women can report, speak up, volunteer, and contribute significant inputs to decisions and solutions in emergency and response plans, such as for Covid-19. – Press release