Workshop 5: Young people, COVID-19 and SRHR

Guaranteeing young people’s basic rights to health, safety and choice has become increasingly challenging due to COVID-19. Interruptions in both schooling and health services have exacerbated existing inequalities. Delegates explored how functioning social structures and environments such as schools, sports groups and community centres have broken-down during the pandemic, and discussed which breakthroughs could emerge from new ways of working with young people.

  • The morning workshop was hosted by Tanzila Kahn, Founder and CEO, Iwish and Creative Alley.
  • Eylem Dedegolu, Member YouAct and Lucrezia Vittori, External Communications Officer, YouAct hosted the afternoon workshop.

Main Challenges:

  • School closures: with schools often functioning as safety nets and young girls now forced to stay at home, school closures are contributing to higher rates of domestic violence, young and forced marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). At the same time, regional school closures are preventing formal sexuality education, which is, amongst others, contributing to an increase in unwanted pregnancies.
  • Digital divide: the digital divide between those with online access and underserved groups, e.g. girls’ access to digital devices is often more limited than other members of the household.
  • Privacy: young people often lack privacy or a safe environment within which to access online information regarding SRHR, as families often share mobile devices.
  • Online bullying: many young people face online bullying, harassment and discrimination, making it even more daunting to try to access SRHR information virtually.

Opportunities and solutions:

  • Alternative service delivery: connecting with existing local networks makes it easier to reach young people, disseminate information and services.
  • Making remote SRHR consultations easier: these are becoming increasingly legalised and more common, making remote access to SRHR services easier than before.
  • Tapping into the importance of youth: young people are an important player in responding to and preventing the spread of COVID-19 because they are at lower risk of severe COVID-19 infection. As young people potentially contribute to the spread of COVID-19 and the success of the COVID-19 response depends on their willingness to protect others, this creates an opportunity for young people and their potential impact to become more visible and has the potential to influence future policy making.