COVID-19: ITS EFFECT ON GIRL CHILD EDUCATION AND WOMEN
The COVID-19 is a new virus, which has caused huge havoc across the globe and its resulted in it being studied by scientists, researchers, and medical practitioners. Some of the best ways of flattening the curve of the spread of the virus as advised by medical personnel are to be well informed about the COVID-19 virus, its impact on the health of individuals and how it spreads.
The advice by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other organisations is that it’s best to prevent oneself, community and citizens from contracting the virus. The good practices for ensuring prevention is by washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based sanitizer not less than 60% frequently, avoid touching our faces and practice social distancing and self-isolate if one starts to show symptoms such as fever, tiredness, dry cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, aches, and pains.
The COVID19 pandemic is bound to impact on several facets of our lives especially for women, children and other vulnerable populations.
1. GIRL CHILD EDUCATION
According to a report by UNESCO, 89% of children are currently out of school as a result of the COVID-19 closures. This percentage represents about 1.54 billion children and youth in primary, secondary and university. This includes nearly 743 million girls.
While some girls will continue with their education as soon as the pandemic is over and the gates of the schools reopen, others may never be opportune to return to school as a result of the effects of the global pandemic.
Girl Child education has been an area of long-term advocacy by nongovernmental organisations, development partners, etc in Nigeria. There have been different reasons that have been pushed to justify no or limited education for the girl child in Nigeria. There have been attempts at improving the registration rates of girls in schools so that they can get good education. The relevance and importance of girl child education within the context of improving governance which includes access to education.
Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) is an element of developmental support that should be fused into the continuous advocacy for girl child education in Nigeria – more now than before.
The lockdown or restricted movements are one of the strategies for containing the COVID19 virus. There have been various discussions in the public space about the possibility of extension of the lockdown and/or restricted movements. The closure of schools over a long period of time as part of the national response to the containment of COVID19 could lead to families resorting to marrying off the girls. It might seem that education has become an informal escape route to early marriage because ‘schooling’ is one of the major reasons given for the delay in getting the girl child married early.
It is important for the education authorities to consider innovative ways of ensuring education continues for the girl child.
2. SEXUAL GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 3 women/girls worldwide experience physical and/or Sexual Gender-Based Violence by their partner or perpetrators in their lifetime. Violence against women/girls tend to increase during every type of emergency, including epidemic.
As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, there has been a decline in the accessibility of services of various external caregivers in homes such as nannies, cooks, gardeners, e.t.c and this effect is likely to fall directly on women who are the primary caregivers as this could bring about unease and make them more stressed and more vulnerable to all forms of violence such as sexual gender-based violence, domestic violence, and exploitation.
According to a report by the Lagos State Domestic Sexual and Violence Response Team (DSVRT), reports on domestic violence has tripled since March 2020 (during the lockdown period) compared to the reports they had pre the lockdown period. The DVSRT stated that they now receive an average of 8 calls and 7 cases on their social media platforms daily. This is as a result of the fact that survivors of SGBV are basically stuck with their abusers due to the COVID-19’s lockdown as some use their jobs, schools or other activities as a means of escape before the pandemic.
The police being the primary law enforcement agency with the responsibility of protecting lives and properties of all citizens are presently tasked with the ensuring that citizens comply with the lockdown directives the Federal and State governments which is one of the national strategies to contain the spread of the COVID19 virus in the country.
As it relates to response to sexual gender-based violence, it means that perpetrators may not be arrested and/or charged to court. However, survivors might still be able to access other support services such as medical, psychosocial, shelter, etc during this period. NGOs are coming up with innovative methods of providing support to survivors of SGBV during this period using technology-driven tools as the primary tool for engagement and access.
The health care system in Nigeria is faced with immense pressure! There is the immediate pressure due to the pandemic, there are the multiplier effects – responding to victims of SGBV – and of course, there are the ‘usual’ or ‘normal’ clients who need medical attention routinely. How do we strengthen the health system to ensure it can cater to all needs? Do we need volunteers both experienced and otherwise to provide the needed support?
From our end at PWAN, we believe that there is a need to:
– Strengthen and sustain advocacy on all the possible effects of COVID-19 on all stakeholders particularly women, children, persons with disability, etc through the radio, social media platforms, television, etc.
– Information on what to do if/when falls victims of the pandemic, SGBV, forced marriage, etc at this time should be made available and widely circulated.
– Recruit and train volunteers at the community level to take the messages to the grassroots and assist to report incidents at the grassroots to the subnational level(s) to ensure proper documentation and effective response(s).
This post is written by Theresa Awulor– Communications Assistant PWAN.