The views expressed in this article are the author’s and are not necessarily the views of the partners.
By Srishti Pragat via UNICEF, Madhya Pradesh
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on children. The early years in a child’s life are the most important in terms of their education, health, safety, etc. Children have been missing out on education, health, nutritious food and vaccinations and safety during the pandemic, which will have a long term impact in their lives.
This pandemic has had a gendered impact as well in terms of the rise in the domestic violence cases since the lockdown.
In a country with existing economic, social and gender inequalities, the current situation has only increased the risk of children belonging to lower socio-economic classes, especially girls who might end up missing out on education. This pandemic will further push children to drop out of schools to support the families economically and will be forced to work as child labourers. The girls especially will be forced to fulfil the added pressure of household responsibilities.
Already about 43% of the girls drop out of school before completing secondary education due to marriage, child labour, domestic violence household responsibilities, distance to school and/or lack of sanitation facilities at the school (UNICEF). This pandemic is going to further make the situation worse for adolescent girls.
There has been a history of how young girls are forced into marriages in time of any social, economic or global crisis. This will eventually perpetuate the cycle of poverty and make a girl more vulnerable to violence and abuse throughout her life. This would further hamper their physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health.
As more girls are enrolled in government schools than boys, online classrooms will result in most of the girls missing out on learning during the pandemic. Households where there is one smartphone with the internet, boys, will be given preference over girls—hence leading to the violation of the right to education of thousands of girls across the country. The gender divide in internet accessibility across the country stands at only 30% of women using the internet as against 70% men.