We are only beginning to understand the economic and social impacts that Covid-19 will have on communities around the world. However, substantial evidence shows that outbreaks and crises compound existing inequalities and disproportionately affect women and girls.
Nonetheless, targeted responses that consider the unique needs of adolescent girls don’t often exist and these needs get lost between efforts aimed at children or adult women. Limited funding that lacks gender lens in humanitarian responses means very little of this money actually goes toward adolescent girls who will be impacted by the COVID-19 situation in a myriad of ways, including adverse effects on their education, personal safety, bodily autonomy, health, peer support, social connections and economic prospects.
In particular, rates of sexual and gender-based violence and early forced marriage will very likely increase. Worryingly, the immediate economic hardship and stress related to the pandemic combined with social isolation measures and stay-at-home directives being enforced by governments around the world seem set to further exacerbate this alarming situation.
Women Win uses sport and play to create safe spaces, increase peer support and provide access to services that adolescent girls and young women are entitled to. Through our programmes, we provide platforms for girls to build leadership, learn about their rights, realise their potential and strengthen their communities.
Given office shutdowns, school closures and bans on social gatherings in nearly all our implementing locations, many of our programmes have been suspended for the time being. Our immediate focus is to ensure that Women Win and our implementing partners are strong enough to weather this storm.
As concrete actions, Women Win is investing in institutional capacity strengthening of our implementing partners and striving to retain the wonderful staff, volunteers and coaches that implement programmes at the grassroots level. At the same time, we are exploring options on how we can best support the girls who participate in our programmes and their communities. We are working with our partners to design alternatives to our regular programming that address the immediate priorities on the ground.
Internally, we are also launching a financial sustainability and resilience plan that will safeguard our operations in the immediate emergency and throughout the economic downturn that seems sure to follow.
Women Win has committed to four key principles that will guide our response to this crisis:
1. Consider the unique needs of adolescent girls worldwide and the specific risks they face
2. Recognise girls’ potential to lead and support them to take on leadership roles in the response
3. Localise our response as much as possible by prioritising the expertise of girls, communities and local organisations, including the commitment to shifting resources and decision-making into their hands; and supporting locally contextualised action
4. Take a collaborative and coordinated approach that leverages collective expertise and resources