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Threat to Gender Equality due to Covid-19: UNESCO Study

  • 22 Nov 2021
  • 4 min read

Why in News

Recently UNESCO released a new study, ‘when schools shut’, exposing the gendered impact of Covid-19 school closures on learning, health and well-being.

  • It was released on the occasion of the 2021 International Day of the Girl Child (11th October).

International Day of the Girl Child

  • History:
    • In 1995, at the World Conference on Women in Beijing, the need for an event focused on young and vulnerable girls was identified.
    • The initiative began as a non-government international plan of action to address the challenge faced by young women.
    • A resolution to declare 11th October as the International Day of the Girls Child was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2011.
    • In 2020, this marked 25 years of the adoption of the Beijing declaration.
  • Aim:
    • It is celebrated for empowering and amplifying the voices of young girls around the world.
  • Theme for 2021:
    • ‘Digital generation'. Our generation’.

Key Points

  • About the Study:
    • The global study titled “When schools shut: Gendered impacts of Covid-19 school closures” brings to the fore that girls and boys, young women and men were affected differently by school closures, depending on the context.
    • At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, 1.6 billion students in 190 countries were affected by school closures.
  • Areas of Gendered Impacts:
    • Household Demands:
      • In poorer contexts, girls’ time to learn was constrained by increased household chores. Boys’ participation in learning was limited by income-generating activities.
    • Digital Divide:
      • Girls faced difficulties in engaging in digital remote learning modalities in many contexts because of limited access to internet-enabled devices, a lack of digital skills and cultural norms restricting their use of technological devices.
        • The study pointed out that digital gender-divide was already a concern before the Covid-19 crisis.
    • Rate of School Return:
      • Limited data available to date about school return rates also show gender disparities.
        • A study conducted in four counties in Kenya found that 16 % of girls and 8 % of boys aged 15 to 19 failed to re-enrol during the two months following school reopening in early 2021.
    • Impact on Health:
      • School closures have impacted children’s health, notably their mental health, well-being and protection.
        • Girls reported more stress, anxiety and depression than boys in 15 countries across the world. LGBTQI learners reported high levels of isolation and anxiety.
  • Suggestions:
    • Factor Gender in Policies and Programmes:
      • The study calls on the education community to factor gender in policies and programmes to tackle declining participation and low return-to-school rates in vulnerable communities, including through cash transfers and specific support to pregnant girls and adolescent mothers.
    • Track Trends and Expand Interventions:
      • Continued efforts are needed to track trends and expand interventions to bring an end to child marriages as well as early and forced marriages, practices which rob girls of their right to education and health and reduce their long-term prospects.
    • No-Tech and Low-Tech Remote Learning Solutions:
      • A strong need for no-tech and low-tech remote learning solutions, measures to enable schools to provide comprehensive psychosocial support and to monitor participation through sex-disaggregated data, among other necessary measures is needed.

Source: TH

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