18-year-old Deborah is from Teresina in Brazil. She joined Plan International’s Girls' Leadership School after one of the project coordinators visited her school. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, schools were the first establishments to close. Now, over a month into social isolation, Deborah speaks about the impact to her life.
"The main change has been my classes which were suspended so we have to study at home. We don't have online classes, the teachers just sets us schoolwork, but I have a lot of difficulty in some subjects and can't keep up.
It is difficult to study alone, and I am worried about the ENEM (National Examination of the Secondary School, which evaluates the performance of students in Brazil for the access to higher education). I not feel prepared and I am thinking about dropping out of school this year, because I will not be able to spend the whole year in school.
Some of my friends have suggested websites to help with my studies, but I didn't see any results and I don't always have good access to the internet. The truth is that I'm also very discouraged. I don't think I'm the only one who feels this way.
As well as studying, I help my grandmother take care of my little sister. With more people in the house, I have to do more chores. I end up spending more time on domestic tasks and any time I have left is used to study or read a book.
I think the isolation has left me busier than before. However, I am aware that it is part of prevention efforts. My family and I have been taking care of ourselves, washing our hands often and using alcohol gel.
Every day we wash our clothes to avoid any contagion, in general we have been more careful with personal hygiene and I have realised that it is not only in my house, I see that my neighbours are being careful and all the people I talk to say they are being more careful too.
During this isolation, my contact with my friends has also changed, we don't meet any more and we talk through social networks. We don't have the Girl Leadership School project meetings anymore which has affected me and the other girls a bit.
At Plan International's workshops we always work on interesting topics, about women's participation and our rights. It was very good because it helped our self-esteem. It was also through the project that we girls became more united. Today I have friendships with girls I didn't even talk to before. We miss everything, the meetings and the talking about these issues that nobody talks about anywhere else.
I think domestic violence has increased during isolation and I have heard of situations in my neighborhood where girls are the victims. I have not witnessed them, but I have heard of situations of rape, including a girl I know.”
Plan International Brazil is providing assistance in cases of violence against children and women and is distributing information on child protection to the communities where we work, as well as strengthening the capacity of the institutions to respond adequately to reports of gender-based violence.