Raising awareness of gender-based violence during COVID-19

14 July 2020

Despite having her life interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and a volcano eruption, Reylyn is now aware of her rights and how to protect herself and other young people following training from Plan International.

When 18-year-old Reylyn was forced to give up her studies last year, she thought things couldn’t get any worse. Her family could no longer afford to pay for her education, so she had to drop out of school to take care of the household chores and look after the younger children. Her hopes of getting a college degree and taking to the sky as a flight attendant were dashed, but everything changed when her life was further disrupted by a series of disasters.

Reylyn lives near the Taal Volcano, one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines. In January this year, it awoke after 43 years and began to spew gases, ash and lava into the air. In the weeks that followed, the heavy ash withered vegetation and turned the green fields and forests into a ghostly gray.

Nearly 400,000 people were affected, with many fleeing their homes to take shelter in evacuation centres. Plan International quickly launched an emergency response, implementing projects in various locations in coordination with the government and others humanitarian actors.

To ensure the safety of children living in the centres, we established child protection mechanisms in order to protect children from all forms of violence and abuse. To ease and reduce the stress of living in the centres, we also provided psychosocial support activities for children.

Then, just a few weeks after the eruption on 30 January, the country declared its first case of COVID-19 and strict quarantine measures were implemented. With fears that cases of domestic violence would rise, Plan International, with funding from the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation, started raising awareness on the issue of child protection and gender-based violence amid the global pandemic.

We are providing girls and young women with training on safeguarding, child protection, and the referral pathways for reporting instances of gender-based violence. Reylyn was one of the girls who took part in the training. “I feel uncomfortable when someone stares at me. It’s like I’m about to be eaten,” she says.

During the training we also provided life-saving information about COVID-19, including hygiene and menstrual health management. Reylyn says that her favorite topic was children’s rights. “When Plan International gave information about child protection, I learnt that as a woman, I have the right to be protected from abuse. There is a law that protects me.”

Emergencies, Protection from violence, Child protection in emergencies, COVID-19