COVID: Youth Speak
Young People's Stories, Concerns, and Hopes
One year into the crisis, EMpower wanted to hear first-hand from you and other young people about the impact of COVID-19 and the ongoing crisis on your daily lives. So we undertook global surveys to learn more. You shared your thoughts, feelings, and expertise.
This is what you told us.
In Your Words
“We are just working and working in the house.
No time to study…My parents don’t want me to attend meetings again and I am losing my friends.”
- Female, Age 16, Ghana
Your Top 5 Reported Needs
You shared how the COVID-19 crisis has intensified the challenges you face. You and your peers will need ongoing support and new approaches to repair the damage the pandemic has done and continues to do. Here are your Top 5 Reported Needs:
Mental health care so you can process your emotions and feel heard
Mental Health Support
“I think the support we need is more of a place where we can be heard, where we are supported and advised.”
-Female Age 21, Argentina
Income generation and vocational training
for emerging work opportunities
“I need [financial] support to get back to my business as a community livestock worker so that I can make income for my schooling.”
-Female Age 19, Ghana
Improved access to schools, including
online learning (particularly for girls)
Help Overcoming the Digital Divide
“I have felt a lot of stress from the classes since I do not have the best cell phone or the best internet. And had no experience with electronics. It was very confusing for me.”
–Female Age 13, Peru
Financial resources to meet your basic needs, such as food
“Many parents were left without work, so this had an impact on their ability to bring food home.”
-Male Age 22, Argentina
COVID-19 prevention and sexual and reproductive health supplies
“We saw a lot of young women getting pregnant during this pandemic, due to lack of contraceptives. We need to give young people more information about reproductive health and how important it is.”
–Female Age 23, Philippines
"COVID-19 restrictions resulted in closures of schools for almost a year. It also affected our shea butter business. Before COVID-19 I was making an income from our shea butter business and that was helping me with my school needs.
COVID-19 limited our peer interactions and learning. My appeal to NGOs is to support us with seed capital and training such as tailoring, shea butter processing, and we also appeal to the government and other organisations to support us with an online learning platform. Engage our parents and elders of the communities to help reduce abuses such as teenage pregnancies and rape. These will...allow girls to fully develop their potentials."
“I see myself as a researcher,” said Soni when asked if she considered herself to be a leader.
Soni’s confidence is infectious. A part of the 25-strong girl leaders’ squad, she interviewed six girls from different communities. “I wanted to reach out to different groups,” she said. “The COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent lockdowns took a toll on the lives of people and was especially harsh on girls.”
While she joined the EMpower Leaders Lab to acquire new skills and meet new people, the first few days were a grind. Not only was she getting used to being a researcher and familiarising herself with the different interview methods, she had chosen communities that were new to her and far from her home. “Initially, I faced a few challenges while conducting interviews. Some people were suspicious. They didn’t want me, a stranger, to interview their daughters, their girls. But I persevered. I maintained my calm and convinced the parents that my work was important.”
Soni is completing her undergraduate degree, and since participating in the Leaders Lab, she is helping one of the girls she interviewed. “One of the girls I interviewed lives with a mental disability. She seemed neglected by the people around her. So, I meet her for an hour daily and teach her, speak to her. She feels happy, and so do I.”
"My name is Hawa Deeshini. I am one of the young girls working as a community livestock worker funded by EMpower. I am here to share the effect that this COVID pandemic has had on me. Due to COVID, we had to take a very long break and during that break students like us had to remain in the house. We used to find it very difficult. Online classes were organised but some of us, unfortunately, couldn't take part because we didn’t have the resources. During the lockdown, all our services were closed and we faced financial issues. Our movement was restricted. We had a way of interacting with each other but now no one would even allow you to come to their house... Our parents were not able to go to the markets to do our business. We really faced a lot.
"I realised most of my colleagues after COVID came back with teenage pregnancies. And when you asked them why, they would tell us it's because they were home for a long time, and they experienced sexual harassment, which led to the pregnancy."
*We have included examples of the responses we received, not everything is covered.
Listen to young people and hear from us directly about what we are facing and need.
Work with us to come up with solutions, both in the short- and long- term.
Ensure our basic needs (such as food, water, and sanitation) are met.
Provide and invest in much needed psychosocial support for young people, who are struggling with emotional trauma.
Make intentional and concerted efforts to keep girls in school, which has benefits far beyond their education.
Boost efforts to keep very young adolescents and other harder-to-reach young people engaged in programmes, we shouldn’t be left behind.
Provide marginalised young people with the necessary technology and internet access to fully participate in online learning.
Bring back in-person programmes with appropriate safety measures when possible.
Support relevant vocational training especially related to the digital economy so that young people can keep up with the new job market, which can include work from home options, part-time or flexible work, and solopreneur opportunities for us.
Provide supplies and community trainings for COVID prevention.
Make accessible sexual and reproductive health information and services
(especially menstrual hygiene products and contraceptives).
Work with communities to build informed perspectives on gender equity that value girls, their decisions, and choices.