Asia and COVID-19

Hear it From the Girls – Asia and COVID-19
19 May 2020

How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting girls in Asia? Hear from them in their own voices as girls and young women share some of their important needs and priorities while experiencing social distancing, more time at home and the uncertainty of the future.

Asia is home to more than half of the world’s 1.1 billion girls under the age of 18. The COVID-19 pandemic currently threatens decades-worth of the critical progress made in gender equality and girls’ rights. Girls in the region are facing increasing cases of gender-based violence and child marriage, disruption of education, limited access to sexual and reproductive health services, shrinking employment opportunities, increased psychological distress, and an exacerbated burden of domestic work.

With girls’ rights and gender equality at the heart of our work, Plan International is introducing ‘Hear it From the Girls- Asia and COVID-19’, a brief report featuring the voices of girls in the region, our commitment to them and recommendations to governments on the needs of girls and young women who are particularly hard hit in health emergencies.

Plan International has interviewed girls in Asia to hear about how COVID-19 has impacted their lives and communities, and what we can do to support them. Girls have told us what they need, now it’s time for us to act.

Girls have told us what they need, now it’s time for us to act.

The Asia Pacific region has seen significant progress in gender equality in recent years in a number of areas, such as education and political participation.  From 2000-2016, the number of out-of-school girls in primary and secondary school dropped by 67 million.  The number of females in tertiary school rose by 41 million. From 1990 to 2018 the proportion of women in national parliaments has risen from 8 per cent to18 per cent. 

Unfortunately, in other areas, Asia and the Pacific have seen a decline in equality.  According to UNESCAP, women’s economic empowerment has remained nearly stagnant and those who are young and in the informal labour market are expected to be hit the hardest.  The East Asia Pacific Region is one of the only regions in the world where rates of teenage pregnancy are increasing in low- and- middle-income countries. 

Any emergency risks increasing existing discriminations and incidents of violence.  It also risks losing progress so recently made for girls and young women.  The COVID-19 Pandemic is an emergency on a scale not seen for nearly 100 years.  The impacts will be far-reaching and if we’re not careful, long-term.  We are already seeing the effects in increasing reports of domestic and gender-based violence, school closures, and the shutting down of the informal economy.  All of these necessary public health strategies severely threaten the progress made in gender equality and risk losing even more ground on the fight for girls’ rights.

We have an opportunity to mitigate the negative impacts of this global pandemic, particularly those negative impacts to progress on gender equality and girls’ rights.  We need to listen to those most impacted by the loss of rights and gender equality.  Girls.  In Plan International Asia Region’s Report, Hear it From the Girls, we do just that.   We have reached out to girls across the region to hear their stories.  We are working to learn lessons from their experiences, and respond to their specific needs during this time. We recommend listening as we hear it from the girls’ themselves.      

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Emergencies, COVID-19