Having endured the harsh realities of the Ebola epidemic, one would expect that we were well prepared for a pandemic. The socio- economic shocks and long lasting effects of Ebola are realities we were still trying to overcome.
The prolonged periods out of school left us with increased teen pregnancies, a situation that was already concerning.
As in any crisis, women and girls are disproportionately affected. During covid-19 some countries are overwhelmed by the health response and are not able to minimize the education impact: the existing gap will increase.
In March 2020 I realized that we must do more to protect our girls because this particular crisis could only result in a steeper gap in education, for countries such as ours without universal digital reach.
I wanted to keep our secondary and university mentees safe and productively active. We discussed having zoom meetings and online assignments. But for countries where phones and internet are not ubiquitous it is nearly impossible.
I designed community engagements instead: older mentees were in charge of identifying and choosing communities to which we would distribute hand wash stations, soap and sanitizer, with a short skit on covid-19 protocols, as they made the distribution.
We later added masks to our community donations and they coordinated manufacturing, in particular, with a group of polio affected tailors to whom we gave one of the contracts, so they too could earn during this downtime.
Our older mentees were responsible for checking on the younger ones. This way we had a chain of communication, and contact to all.
With universities still closed, and schools open only for students with exams, we still need to mitigate the loss of learning. For our girls, the protracted loss of learning and continued loss of daily income to families directly impacts their future.