A pandemic through a girl's eyes
UNICEF collaborated with adolescent girls from nine countries – including Niger, asking them to share their lives through the lens of their mobile phones
I was really afraid because of the crowds that gathered. If this kind of gathering takes place, coronavirus will continue. It will spread in our country. I see people not abiding by the preventive rules.
In the last few months, our lives have been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. For girls around the world, this has meant facing increasing threats to their safety and well-being, including harmful practices, violence, exploitation, abuse, neglect, social exclusion and separation from caregivers and friends.
The closure of schools, health and protection services to contain the spread of COVID-19 leaves girls even more vulnerable, extending and intensifying the current crisis. While the pandemic has received wide coverage, the voices and stories of adolescent girls have often been missing, although they are and will be heavily impacted.
Currently, many parents do not have a job and money for school fees. So, they have started planning to send their children to work. In the case of girls, they may plan to marry them off at an early age
For five weeks between May and June 2020, UNICEF collaborated with adolescent girls from nine countries – including Niger, asking them to share their lives through the lens of their mobile phones. We asked them to capture their ‘new normal’ and share their thoughts, ideas and beliefs on COVID-19 and other issues in their lives.
Launching on 24 July, “Coping with COVID-19” is a five-part series – with a new episode launching each Friday – in which we will meet a group of adolescent girls from South Asia and West and Southern Africa who show that adolescent girls have a voice, they just need a platfor m to speak. This platform gives them a chance to be heard – they are empowered, they act, and they stand up for themselves and their loved ones. They outline what they want most of all: a future – where they can choose education, work, dreams, and love.
In the context of Generation Equality, UNICEF aims to lift the voices of adolescent girls – although they might face many challenges during COVID-19, they are fearless, and they speak up. We need to make sure these girls are supported to become anything they want during COVID-19 and always.
UNICEF calls on governments and policymakers to:
- Acknowledge the increased vulnerability of adolescent girls to har mful practices due to COVID-19 and consider girls in both response and ‘building back better’ plans, including ensuring girls’ access to quality education and to legal, justice and health services, including sexual and reproductive health and social protection
- Pay attention to especially vulnerable adolescent girls, such as those already married, widowed or divorced, adolescent mothers, and girls who have undergone female genital mutilation
- Ensure girls’ needs and vulnerabilities are captured in data- and evidence-generation during and after the pandemic
- Ensure adolescent girls’ voices are heard, through platforms to express themselves and consider their thoughts and ideas in policies and programmes that affect their lives.
The government must give young women the freedom to blossom within the society, respect girls, and register them in schools to build a better and more prosperous world
As coronavirus came, we fought against it as a family. My father prohibited me from going to playgrounds, and my mother fought against the virus too. She kept on putting measures in place to fight this disease. I am calling on authorities to find a cure for the coronavirus. And when it is found, it should be given to countries to use.
At country level, this initiative was conducted with the financial support the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage. The Global Programme promotes the rights of adolescent girls to avert marriage and pregnancy and enables them to achieve their aspirations through education and alternative pathways. It supports households in demonstrating positive attitudes, empowers girls to direct their own futures, and strengthens the services that allow them to do so. It also addresses the underlying conditions that sustain child marriage, advocating for laws and policies that protect girls' rights while highlighting the importance of using robust data to inform such policies.
The Global Programme is generously supported by the Governments of Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom and the European Union, as well as Zonta International.