Gender Equality and Covid-19

News: Recently UNESCO released a new study, ‘when schools shut’, exposing the gendered impact of Covid-19 school closures on learning, health and well-being. It was released on the occasion of the 2021 International Day of the Girl Child (11th October).

Details:

  • The global study titled “When schools shut: Gendered impacts of Covid-19 school closures” brings to the fore that girls and boys, young women and men were affected differently by school closures, depending on the context. At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, 1.6 billion students in 190 countries were affected by school closures.

Impact:

  • In poorer contexts, girls’ time to learn was constrained by increased household chores. Boys’ participation in learning was limited by income-generating activities.
  • Girls faced difficulties in engaging in digital remote learning modalities in many contexts because of limited access to internet-enabled devices, a lack of digital skills and cultural norms restricting their use of technological devices.
  • The study pointed out that digital gender-divide was already a concern before the Covid-19 crisis.
  • Limited data available to date about school return rates also show gender disparities.
  • A study conducted in four counties in Kenya found that 16 % of girls and 8 % of boys aged 15 to 19 failed to re-enrol during the two months following school reopening in early 2021.
  • School closures have impacted children’s health, notably their mental health, well-being and protection.
  • Girls reported more stress, anxiety and depression than boys in 15 countries across the world. LGBTQI learners reported high levels of isolation and anxiety.

Suggestions:

  • The study calls on the education community to factor gender in policies and programmes to tackle declining participation and low return-to-school rates in vulnerable communities, including through cash transfers and specific support to pregnant girls and adolescent mothers.
  • Continued efforts are needed to track trends and expand interventions to bring an end to child marriages as well as early and forced marriages, practices which rob girls of their right to education and health and reduce their long-term prospects.
  • A strong need for no-tech and low-tech remote learning solutions, measures to enable schools to provide comprehensive psychosocial support and to monitor participation through sex-disaggregated data, among other necessary measures is needed.