17-year-old Lixiana from the department of Chinandega in Nicaragua, says it has been a frustrating time for her because she should have been in her first year at university, something she was looking forward to. "What I miss most is going to class. I was going to experience that change from high school to university and now I’m not going out at all. I need to share with my classmates, learn new knowledge, go to class."
For her, being cooped up at home is "suffocating sometimes”. However, she firmly believes that: "The most important thing right now is health, you have to give priority to your health and the rest comes on top of that."
For Lixiana, her life is on hold. "My dreams haven't changed. What has changed is the time I have to achieve them. Because of COVID-19 I had to stop going to classes, and as it was my first year of university, I really had many things I wanted to do such as learning English and accounting, they are the things I'm going to have to delay. But I always have in mind that I'm going to do them."
Lixiana planned to study Agricultural Engineering at university, a subject that she was studying at a technical level when the health emergency arrived. Lixiana’s parents were "delighted" with her course choice and she was very excited because she likes the countryside, plants, animals and the idea of helping the environment. However, some people questioned her choice because engineering and agriculture are considered "man's work".
"Some people told me that I have the potential to do something else and not study this subject. That I have chosen a very hard career because it has to be done outdoors in the field. But I think: what's the difference? If I can study it, why not do it, if that's what I like. And it was very exciting because on the first day of school I saw that there were quite a few women, girls my age, not just men," she explains.
However, now everything has changed. There are many concerns that the pandemic has brought including unemployment, economic crisis and collapse of the health system and Lixiana is worried.
"If the contagion continues, it will spread to communities and people who have no resources. The health centres are already completely full, they cannot attend to so many people and they do not have the necessary equipment, the medicines, ventilators, masks to attend to these people.”
Lixiana says that in her community things are difficult for students and workers. "Some jobs have been closed and the people who used to work no longer have a livelihood. The schools have been closed, but some groups of students go every 2 weeks."
She also believes that women and children suffering from violence may be even more exposed and vulnerable because they are at home and do not have the support of agencies to follow up on their cases. “Cases of abuse and pregnancies among girls could increase, because the quarantine restrictions will mean their abusers are not be able to leave their homes and could concentrate their energies on abusing their victims,” she says.
Likewise, gender inequality is accentuated because parents treat boys and girls differently. "Both genders should help parents with the household chores, but girls are always sought out for certain chores and if they don't do them, there are punishments such as not using the mobile phone," Lixiana explains.
Lixiana is doing her best to keep up with her studies at home as her desire to learn has not stopped. "I've been catching up with classes, even though I haven't been going. I ask my classmates for support to catch up and not lose track of the work."
Staying connected with her friends has been really important during the lockdown. Even though it's virtual, everything is shared. Through these conversations, she knows that most of her friends are afraid of going to school, of getting infected and bringing the coronavirus home.
"We have a WhatsApp group, we connect, we share, we talk about how we feel, we discuss whether we will continue to go to class and most say they won't continue because the main thing is family," Lixiana explains.