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Accepted Paper:

"Since the market is closed, there is no more money, there is nothing to do": voices of adolescent girls in Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone on the impact of COVID-19 and poverty  


Alba Lanau (Centre d'Estudis DemogrĂ fics)
Tigist Grieve (University of Bristol)
Luisa Enria (LSHTM)
Angus Fayia Tengbeh (Institute for Global Health and Development)

Paper short abstract:

With the disruption to everyday lives, the pandemic added layers of challenges that affected adolescent girls in unique ways. Drawing on the voices of adolescent girls the paper shows the differentiated ways in which COVID-19 affected girls, and calls for sustainable and innovative solutions.

Paper long abstract:

The COVID pandemic is expected to widen inequalities. In Africa, it is feared that the social consequences of the pandemic will undo the progress in gender equality achieved over the last two decades. Through in-depth qualitative telephone interviews with 37 adolescent girls (15-19) in Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone this paper sheds light on the economic consequences of the pandemic on girls. Girls' experience of the pandemic is strongly mediated by their household configuration, resources and local context. Girls tend to downplay their economic struggles. Yet, our data identifies three groups: sheltered from the economic impact of the pandemic, coping or adjusting, and severely affected. We also identify a fourth group of girls, found only in Burkina Faso, for whom the impact of the pandemic is minor compared to enduring violence and trauma. Our analysis shows the unequal impact of COVID-19 is likely to increase economic inequality, particularly in areas with longer-lasting lockdowns, as coping mechanisms erode over time. Furthermore, the pandemic is likely to increase gender inequality by deviating transitional trajectories through accelerating marriages and the end of schooling. Such impacts are also mediated by resources. We argue that achieving the SDG ideals requires innovative, appropriate and sustainable solutions with the combined effort of governments and the development community that takes accounts of the lived experiences of adolescent girls and contexts. Finally, necessary attention to the consequences of the pandemic should not detract from addressing ongoing issues, including poverty and conflict.

Panel P19a
COVID-19 and global development challenges: 'unsettling' multidimensional poverty? I