African Girls in the COVID-19 Pandemic

5 August 2020

As countries across Africa experience the impact of COVID-19 across health systems, economies and communities, progress made in the last decade in achieving the rights of adolescent girls’ risks being lost. African governments must act in urgency to address this “invisible crisis" and protect the important gains made to protect, and empower girls over the last decade.

COVID-19, an unfolding global health crisis, is revealing a grim impact on millions of adolescent girls across Africa. Along with rising infection rates across countries in the continent, the disease is compounding challenges to girls’ agency, protection, learning and leadership. The African response to the pandemic will – if unchecked – roll back important gains made in ensuring African girls’ access and enjoyment of human rights. COVID-19 is emerging as not only a health crisis but a significant protection crisis for adolescent girls across the continent.

Measures adopted by most African governments to curb the spread of COVID-19 in countries have included the closure of schools and other learning institutions, movement restrictions, curfews, lockdowns, and widespread social restrictions. While these measures contributed to delaying an immediate health crisis and were aimed at protecting children and their communities from COVID-19 infections, they have interrupted an already precarious learning and protection context for millions of children. This is especially the case for girls, who are often disproportionately affected by crises impacting the continent.

Girls and young women, especially the most marginalized, are particularly affected by the secondary impacts of the outbreak, due to preexisting harmful social and gender norms and multiple forms of discrimination based on their age, gender and other exclusion factors. Of serious concern are the rising cases of violence girls and young women are facing as well as increasing exposure to harmful practices including Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) and Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM).

Plan International is warning that emerging evidence of rights violations from multiple African countries threatens a generation of girls and young women across the continent. The COVID-19 crisis presents a double jeopardy for girls and young women, as it will set back progress made in achieving gender equality. It is worsening multiple ongoing humanitarian emergencies, including complex protracted crises that have already gravely impacted girls’ access to basic services, rights, and freedoms across the continent.

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Emergencies, Protection from violence, Sexual and reproductive health and rights, child marriage, Child protection in emergencies, COVID-19, Education in emergencies, Female genital mutilation, Gender-based violence, Teenage pregnancy