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GLOBAL: ‘How are the girls?’ study focuses on pandemic effects

Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco collaborate in research study focused on how girls were impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic

(MissionNewswire) The Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco, in collaboration with Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, Comboni Missionary Sisters and Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions, facilitated the “How are the girls?” study, according to a Vatican News story.

The research explored how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the lives and rights of girls in Ecuador, Peru, South Sudan, Kenya, India and Nepal. According to the article, the congregations presented their findings at the headquarters of the International Union of Superiors General in Rome.

The research included a quantitative study focused on a larger pool of girls across the six countries and a qualitative study administered to a smaller group of girls in the same communities. A team of researchers in the fields of economic and social studies, including economists and experts of children and women’s rights, designed and developed the global survey.

More than 3,440 girls and young women ages 10-20 participated in the research across 30 communities within the six chosen countries. The study showed that girls had less access to online education than boys, and that their workload increased, according to the article. Further, 35 percent of girls reported experiencing “serious hardship” during the pandemic. There was a lower incidence of “hardship” reported by girls who were able to continue their education, showing a correlation between access to education in a school and overall well-being.

Educational differences were not all that emerged from the study. The research also showed that learning loss, poverty and food crisis, mental health issues, and violence (including sexual and domestic) increased. Levels of child marriage and teenage pregnancy also increased for girls during the pandemic. For families who lost their jobs during the pandemic, there was also an increase in prostitution and sexual exploitation. Many girls reported feelings of sadness, worry, and increased mental and economic stress, which can have a lasting effect.

In the article, Mathilde Gutzenberger, a member of the research coordination team and a senior expert in gender and children rights, said, “Returning to school was a relief for many girls. What we have found is that education is protection. That is what the girls have told us.” She further noted that pre-existing problems and inequalities were exacerbated, thus worsening whatever situation a girl found herself in. Knowing this is a good indicator of what can happen during future epidemics.

The collaborative work will not end with this study. Additional work in the same six countries will include a new qualitative study on the digital divide, upgrading technological equipment, provide training on the safe use of online platforms and designing a program for mental health. The sisters also hope that this current study can provide guidance for developing an aid guide aimed at preventing negative impacts on young girls in the event of future pandemics or large-scale health crises.



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