UNESCO release study exposing the gender impact of Covid-19

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UNESCO release study exposing the gender impact of Covid-19

  • Educational disruption due to prolonged closure of schools across the globe will not only have alarming effects on learning loss but also poses threat to gender equality, a new study by UNESCO has pointed out.
  • 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.

About the study

  • Drawing on evidence from about 90 countries and in-depth data collected in local communities, the report shows that gender norms and expectations can affect the ability to participate in and benefit from remote learning.
  • At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, 1.6 billion students in 190 countries were affected by school closures.

Four main areas where gendered impacts have been observed

Household demands

  • Household demands on girls and boys, particularly in the poorest contexts, constrained their ability to participate in remote learning.
  • Girls’ increased time spent at home often carried a greater burden of domestic responsibilities, as documented in Bangladesh, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Niger, Pakistan and Sierra Leone and other low- and middle-income contexts.
  • Boys’ participation was often limited by the need to earn an income: one-third of respondents in one survey across 55 countries indicated an increase in the prevalence of child labour related to COVID-19 school closures.

Digital divide

  • The gender digital divide significantly constrained girls’ ability to learn online.
  • In countries with data, adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 were less likely than boys to have used the internet in the past 12 months, and fewer of them owned a mobile phone.
  • Among learners surveyed in three districts in Pakistan, 44% of girls, compared to 93% of boys, reported owning a mobile phone.
  • Girls who did not own mobile phones reported that they relied on their relatives’ devices, typically those belonging to their fathers.

Return to School

  • 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, citing the inability to pay school fees as the main reason.

Children’s health

  • Beyond education, 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.
  • Fears about increased crime and violence were also reported by boys, particularly in crisis-affected contexts.