COVID-19: Gender and EiE - Key Points to Consider
This article is part of a collection of blog posts related to the education in emergencies response to COVID-19.
INEE urges policy-makers and partners to consider how the effects of COVID-19 may differ among groups of women and men.
Disease outbreaks affect women and men, girls and boys, differently, and can exacerbate existing inequalities for women and girls. School closures could disproportionately affect girls in conflict-affected settings, where the COVID-19 pandemic represents a ‘crisis within a crisis’.
INEE urges policy-makers and partners to consider how the effects of COVID-19 may differ among groups of women and men, particularly those who face intersecting and multiple forms of discrimination such as pregnant women and young mothers, women and girls with disabilities, female internally displaced persons or refugees, LGBTQ individuals, etc.
Our new infographic (at right) highlights the salient, specific challenges that girls, adolescent girls, and women typically face in response to health crises. Each challenge has a corresponding recommendation. The recommendations are intended for policy-makers, health and education ministries, schools, teachers, NGOs, community-based organizations, and others responding to the pandemic. The recommendations suggest how to respond to girls’, adolescent girls’, and women’s unique challenges in a gender-sensitive way. Underlying all of the recommended responses are three key pillars of any response: listen, monitor, and learn. Please read the infographic and corresponding text to learn more.
How can you support women and girls during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Listen: Women and girls must be involved in decisions about their education. We must strengthen women’s and girls’ leadership through this crisis, engage women and girls as partners in preparedness, response, and recovery efforts, and ensure representation in national and local COVID-19 policy spaces.
Monitor: Collect age- and sex-disaggregated data on the impacts of COVID-19, including impacts on learning, to understand how COVID-19 impacts individuals differently and to properly assess risk factors for different segments of the population.
Learn: Regularly take stock and learn from the successes and failures of existing programs. Adapt interventions accordingly.
What additional challenges are faced by women and girls during the COVID-19 pandemic?
CHALLENGE: Caregiving - During school closures, girls often take on the care of younger siblings and other family members. More household work means that girls have less time to study, and may also miss out on educational broadcasts on radio and television.
ACTION: Plan - Governments and other civil society responders must put in place increased social protection measures to mitigate these long-term impacts of school closures. Governments should monitor girls’ enrollment and re-entry and identify policies/incentives that encourage girls to return to school. This includes removing barriers that keep girls out of school, such as bans on re-entry for pregnant girls and young mothers.
CHALLENGE: Access - Girls who are out of school face a higher risk of child marriage, sexual and gender-based violence, early pregnancy and child labor. This increases the likelihood of them not returning to schools when they reopen. Also, during lockdown, women and girls may lose access to essential sexual and reproductive health services. This may increase incidents of unwanted/early pregnancy. When schools reopen, pregnant girls may not be able to resume their education due to restrictive school policies, home pressures or stigma and discrimination.
ACTION: Accommodate - Governments must ensure access to alternative or accelerated forms of learning and catch-up courses to help address the interrupted learning of the most marginalized children, and girls in particular. Self-paced learning and flexible scheduling can be critical to support girls’ continued learning given the particular challenges they face during school closures.
CHALLENGE: Technology - On average, access to mobile internet is 26% lower for women and girls compared to men and boys globally. The digital gender gap exists in all regions of the world, which means that girls everywhere have disproportionately less access to internet or technology. This may exclude girls from online-based learning, staying connected to supportive social networks, or accessing SGBV hotlines and support. Where internet and technology access is an option, girls who are spending more time online, whether learning or socializing, may be at increased risk of cyber-bullying and sexual exploitation.
ACTION: Adapt - Continuous learning materials must be adapted to be accessible and inclusive for all children; this includes girls with disabilities, girls from ethnic minority language groups and Indigenous communities, and girls without access to internet or technology. Emergency distance learning programs must take into account that access to technology is gendered and proactively offer alternatives as it relates to context (TV, radio, hardcopies, etc.).
CHALLENGE: Violence - Women and girls are at higher risk of domestic violence due to increased tensions in the household. Schools play an important protective role in preventing and responding to violence and exploitation. School closures mean that children, particularly girls, experiencing violence have fewer opportunities to seek support and access services.
ACTION: Prioritize - GBV referral pathways must be kept open and updated to reflect changes in available care facilities (such as telephone hotlines, access through pharmacies, etc.). Teachers, parents and communities must be trained on the increased threat of sexual and gender based-violence and child marriage during school closures, including referral pathways during lockdown. Gender-sensitive continued learning for girls and boys must embed violence prevention measures & psychosocial support to protect the most vulnerable.
CHALLENGE: Health - Women’s traditional roles as caregivers for children, sick, and/or elderly relatives, puts them at a higher risk of contracting infectious diseases. Women also represent 70 percent of the health and social sector workforce globally. Special attention should be given to how their home and work environments expose them to the disease and to related discrimination. Attention should also be paid to their psychosocial needs as frontline caregivers and health workers.
ACTION: Support - Teachers and other frontline education, child protection, and health workers play a critical role in providing psycho-social support and social and emotional learning to children. As part of the COVID-19 education response, governments must provide training and support to teachers and caregivers that go beyond academics, acknowledging their need for mental health and psychosocial support.
Download the Gender and COVID-19 infographic here.