Webinar: Using a gender lens to address COVID-19 response in refugee settings
COVID-19 has become an unprecedented global crisis. The pandemic and its associated economic crisis have exposed deep structural inequalities around the world, with disproportionate effects on women and girls. This webinar, organized by Women’s Empowerment in Development (WED) Lab at McGill in partnership with the Institute for the Study of International Development, explores current issues around COVID-19 in refugee settings. A diverse panel of experts from the world of global development research and practice discuss research priorities and possible policy solutions to address COVID-19 in refugee settings.
WUSC’s COVID-19 response to girls’ education in refugee settings
We conducted a rapid gender analysis in refugee contexts in Kenya which showed that loss of livelihoods is the key issue that most families are concerned about – more so than COVID-19 itself.
Many markets closed in Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps, incentive workers for humanitarian organizations lost work, and there has been an overall lower demand for services and specialized goods. For those who continued working, business has been slow, and incoming cash flow has diminished. Furthermore, many refugees that relied on remittances from family members abroad are no longer receiving money at the same level due to the global economic impact of COVID-19.
This loss of livelihoods has other serious ripple effects, including food insecurity and lack of critical resources that are typically supplied at schools, such as lunches and sanitary pads. Poverty puts young women at particular risk of transactional sex, forced marriage, teenage pregnancies, and exploitative child labour practices. Community reflections from our recent radio programming showed concern around the safety of girls and the importance of continuing their education during this time.
In the webinar, Stephanie McBride, Education Advisor at WUSC, describes how WUSC is focusing on four key areas to address these risks faced by girls:
- Providing more cash transfers to vulnerable girls in our target populations, aimed at reducing economic pressures & disincentivize early marriage, child labour, and transactional sex
- Developing new radio programs to respond to more urgent needs, particularly to spark conversations about domestic violence and early marriage.
- Providing phone-based counseling and peer support in small groups to motivate and encourage girls and young women
- Delivering audio and video content to teachers, helping them to provide support to their students at a distance
During the gender analysis we conducted, one father of a class 8 student in Kakuma told us that he found the cash transfers to be really helpful during this time. “It could have been worse for me, the money I received helped me buy sanitary items for my daughter….every time I get the money I use 80% of it and save 20% for an emergency. I am trying my best to ensure I encourage her to read during this period.”