Coping with COVID-19
Adolescent girls around the world film their lives under lockdown.
Lockdown measures meant to stem the spread of COVID-19 have torn millions of children from quality learning, critical vaccines, nutritious diets and mental health care.
For girls, disruptions also come at the cost of their safety.
The risk of gender-based violence and harmful practices has risen during the pandemic. And many girls kept from school today will never return, their childhood stolen by child marriage or pregnancy.
In 2020, adolescent girls across the globe filmed their lives during lockdown. A year later, they’re standing up to reclaim their hopes for a fair future.
Episode 1: Girls stand up
Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, girls from every corner of the globe are still coping with school closures, economic hardship and isolation. But the pandemic has not stopped them from standing up to demand change.
Episode 2: Girls stand up to child marriage
Over the next decade, up to 10 million more girls will be at risk of becoming child brides as a result of the pandemic. Disruptions in education, health care and other services – in addition to financial pressure on families – can make girls more vulnerable to child marriage. But Makadidia in Mali and Sangamithra in India are raising awareness in their communities to help protect and empower their peers.
Episode 3: Girls stand up to inequality
Worldwide, harmful social norms and other types of gender inequality still keep girls from thriving – by cutting them off from outdoor play, education and much more. In its most insidious form, gender inequality turns violent.
Through slam poetry and journalism, Antsa in Madagascar and Trisha in Bangladesh are determined to break stereotypes, prevent violence against women and girls, and fight for equality.
Episode 4: Girls stand up for menstruation and mental health
The pandemic has heightened concerns for the mental health of an entire generation of children – even as issues in mental health remain shrouded in stigma.
In Uruguay, Sofía hopes to break the silence and bring critical attention to the psychosocial distress and mental health concerns of her community. Meanwhile, Laetitia in Chad sets off to tackle another taboo affecting girls’ well-being: menstruation.
Episode 5: Girls stand up for education
Nearly 77 million children have been locked out of their classrooms for more than 18 months due to the pandemic.
Karam in Yemen and Zulfa in Indonesia fight for equal learning opportunities in their communities.
Episode 1: A pandemic through a girl’s eyes
As their schools close and their families struggle to stay afloat, girls in nine countries grapple with social isolation and the threat of poverty and child marriage.
“Many parents don’t have a job or money for school fees, so they have started planning to send their children to work,” says Sangamithra, 15, in India. “In [the] case of girls, they may plan to marry them off at an early age.”
Episode 2: Education through a girl’s eyes
Nationwide lockdowns in 194 countries left 1.6 billion children – approximately 90 per cent of the world's students – out of school by early April. Many girls risk never returning to the classroom, as families turn to child marriage or child labour to ease their economic burdens.
“The idea of not sending girls to school, especially in the area where I live, has really become a part of culture,” says Antsa, 16, in Madagascar.
Episode 3: Relationships through a girl’s eyes
Previous health emergencies have shown that girls face a heightened risk of early marriage and pregnancy, especially as they lose access to school, social networks, and critical reproductive health services.
“I want a social system where women and children are completely safe,” says Trisha, 15, in Bangladesh. “Child marriage is a curse for our society. When a girl is a victim of child marriage, she is affected physically and emotionally.”
Episode 4: Inequality through a girl’s eyes
As COVID-19 spreads, girls speak up for their right to live free from female genital mutilation, and to access equal opportunities for protection and well-being.
“Even if a cure has been found, will countries like ours be given access?” asks Esta, 15, in Niger.
Episode 5: The future through a girl’s eyes
Girls across the world reimagine a future that’s inclusive and fair.
“I ask the parents who are watching to protect and take care of their children, to understand that we have something to say, that our thoughts matter, because we are the future,” says Makadidia, 15, in Mali.
The production of Coping with COVID-19 was generously supported by the Governments of Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, AECID (Spain), Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America, as well as the European Union and Zonta International.
With special thanks to the young women featured in this series, who shot most of the video footage themselves to capture their ideas and beliefs – in their own words.