A study on the Rights of Girls in 6 countries during the Covid-19 Pandemic
More than 111 million students have dropped out of school in developing countries. It all started in March 2020, when Covid-19 hit the world. The negative effects of the pandemic have affected people in different ways: the weakest social groups have paid the highest toll, as well as the most vulnerable countries. In this context, GSIF and the Good Shepherd Sisters, together with three other international women’s religious congregations have set themselves a goal during this unprecedented and historic moment: protect the most vulnerable and guarantee the fundamental rights of women, youth and children.
This is the daily mission of the Good Shepherd Sisters, Salesian Sisters, Comboni Sisters and Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions, who have always worked at the grass root level to promote human rights in the Southern countries of the world. The result of this ongoing commitment, uninterrupted by the pandemic, to reduce the social and educational impact, especially on girls between 10 and 20, has been detailed in the report “How are the Girls? A study on the Rights of Girls in six countries during the Covid-19 Pandemic, which was presented on December 7, 2022, at the UISG (International Union Superiors General) in Piazza di Ponte Sant’Angelo, Rome.
The four congregations have collected data in six countries for a year to evaluate the impact of Covid-19 on girls, in terms of their daily life and protection of human rights. The countries involved in the research, namely Kenya, South Sudan, India, Nepal, Ecuador and Peru include some of the most marginalized communities of our world.
The socio-economic integration of the youth in the most vulnerable countries was an ongoing challenge even before the pandemic. Today, girls are still the ones who are affected the most, and almost irreversibly, by the health emergency. The school closure and the change to homeschooling have worsened the inequalities between the most privileged and the most vulnerable. It was estimated that closures and restrictions forced millions of girls from developing countries to drop out of school since March 2020 and many of them never went back. In many cases, this resulted in early marriages and other forms of violence and exploitation.
The results that emerged from the research, coordinated by a research team from the University of Rome La Sapienza, guided by Prof. Maurizio Franzini, Director of the PhD School of Economics, and supported by the expert on girls’ rights, Mathilde Gutzenberger, will be crucial to guide the future plans of the congregations, who are mainly involved in the field of education, protection and promotion of girls’ and children’s rights.
This joint research is the first important step towards establishing an ongoing observatory aimed at monitoring the living conditions of the most vulnerable, often marginalised, groups, like girls, and drawing society’s attention to these relevant humanitarian issues. In fact, the goal of this initiative is also to develop and reinforce joint advocacy actions, among women congregations, in the field of education and protection of girls’ human rights, in order to raise their influence on public politics.
The hybrid event of 7 December was organized by the Good Shepherd International Foundation Onlus, Vides Internazionale ONG, Fondazione Comboniane nel Mondo and RNDM International Mission Development Office, with the collaboration of UISG International Union Superiors General. A panel of researchers and experts in human rights and advocacy lead the presentation and showed the results of the study, alongside the project team of the different congregations. During the presentation, some girls and local coordinators of the six countries shared their experience and their forecast for their future, through inspiring video contributions.