“Girls Back to School” must be at the center of Pakistan’s Covid-19 recovery strategy

14 July, (Peshawar) An online session on Challenges to Girls Education in COVID Crisis was organized by Blue Veins which was attended by young girls, parents, teachers’ associations, lawyers and civil society representatives.

According to Civil Society organizations, girls are particularly vulnerable when schools remain closed for long periods of time. They fear that a large number of girls, especially from the lower strata of the society, may not return to school after the Covid-19 passes. It is estimated that there are 1.8 million out of school children in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and 64 percent of them are girls. Coved-19 can potentially exacerbate preexisting inequalities and intensify the existing learning crisis.

Education planners should be aware of the particular threat that the school closures due to Covid-19 pose to girls and women, and ensure that plans for reopening the schools take this factor into account. The digital divide between genders needs to be overcome if girls are to benefit from online distance learning solutions; studying schedules must be flexible where possible so that learning can take place around the domestic demands that are disproportionately made on girls and women; and targeted measures should be taken to ensure that as many female learners as possible return to schools when they reopen.

Qamar Naseem Program Coordinator Blue Veins and Education Rights Activist said “While we continue to highlight the disproportionate effects of Covid-19 on adolescent girls and young women, we must also recognize their creativity, innovative solutions, and effective partnership in shaping the response and recovery. An education system that recognizes that girls’ voices are valuable and allows for their meaningful participation contributes towards girls’ and women’s empowerment”.

Sana Ahmad, Coordinator of Ujala – a Provincial Youth led Alliance – said “We’ll need to do more than simply reopen classrooms to make it possible for the poorest and most marginalized girls to return to school.”.

The CSOs recommended that governments and partners take the following five steps to ensure marginalized girls, alongside boys, can continue their education.

  1. Address financial barriers that prevent girls from going to school and that are likely to increase as a result of the economic impact of Covid-19.
  2. Scale up gender-responsive distance education to reach the most marginalized girls.
  3. Intensify community mobilization and support for girls’ education, including for those who were out of school before the Covid-19 crisis.
  4. Prioritize girls’ safety and protection.
  5. Ensure meaningful participation for adolescent girls.
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