COVID-19 In Kenya: How Girls Are Being Impacted
COVID-19 is a global pandemic. By its very definition, it has reached nearly every country around the world and has impacted just about every global citizen. While it’s true that we are “all in this together,” this looks very different depending on your location, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. In particular, girls and women are disproportionately affected by health emergencies, and COVID-19 is no different.
Global G.L.O.W. is working with partners around the world to support girls in our programming through this crisis, despite the fact that clubs are not able to meet in person. Here is one account from Phoebe, the Global G.L.O.W. Partnership Coordinator at Milele in Kenya:
When a lockdown was instituted in Kenya, I worked with the Milele director to come up with a plan to contact club members using the information we have for them at the office. It is an interesting new method that we devised to ensure that we are still in touch. Everyday, we make video calls to mothers and ask them to come online with their girls, who are in Global G.L.O.W. programming. We then ask the following questions:
- What are you doing to keep safe?
- Do you have a routine in the house?
- Are you helping your daughter with school work?
- Are you helping your mother with house work?
- What is challenging during this time?
- Is it okay if we call to check on you as G.L.O.W. family?
The reason we decided to have a mental check-in is because many people are scared. In Kenya, we honestly do not have the capacity to deal with this pandemic, especially in the slum areas.
The girls in particular are feeling worried. Many of them are scared of missing their main exams because they do not want to repeat a grade. They are also very afraid of losing loved ones, and the fear is heightened in girls whose guardians are their grandparents. Many do not have access to healthcare and cannot afford medication, especially because their parents’ source of livelihood has been minimal with the lockdown in place.
It is impossible for the girls to stay indoors and social distance because they all live in one room separated by a curtain or sheet. Many of them also use community bathrooms where one facility is shared among five or more families.
How to Cope
As we’re talking, I recommend they keep themselves busy to minimize their worry. I suggest they help with chores around the house, or keep a diary. I also highlight the importance of staying away from negative news (especially on Facebook). For those who are neighbors, we’ve come up with study hall sessions.
Since the girls are not able to practice social distancing, we have advised them to take the following precautions:
- Ensure that any person who uses the bathroom cleans it with soap before the next person enters
- Remove all shoes that have been worn outside before entering the house
- Wash hands thoroughly and remove clothing upon returning home
- If possible, do not leave the housing compound as a group, but rather individually, as the possibility of becoming infected is higher if all members of the household leave together
- Be cautious while interacting with others in public by using handkerchiefs to wrap around their nose and mouth area
We are so grateful to Phoebe, as well as Partnership Coordinators and mentors at our partner organizations around the world who are working tirelessly to support girls during this health crisis.