Why have we launched this fund?

As wave after wave of the coronavirus infection spreads across the globe, communities already living and fighting on the frontlines of oppression will be the worst affected. As social justice funders, advocates and activists we know all too painfully the ways in which crises compound the everyday experiences of violence, gendered poverty and isolation for adolescent girls and young women. COVID-19, like any other crisis, is exposing and exacerbating all of the existing systemic oppression and violence that positions girls as particularly vulnerable – especially girls who face multiple forms of oppression.

 

Public health, the economy and girls’ safety and bodily autonomy are inextricably linked. All over the world — across countries and context — girls play the role of primary caregivers for so many in the community. In a health crisis, this care-giving burden increases dramatically. In the absence of functioning health and social care services in so many places, girls become frontline health responders.  Girls also face huge cultural pressures to provide for their families, even though they are the most likely to be distanced from assets like money, goods, services, transportation and so on. Closing of schools and other learning settings not only limit girls' access to education, but further isolate them from communities of other girls. When girls and young women are removed from their peers, we know rates of violence, teenage pregnancy and forced marriage soar.

 

The cruel irony is that despite this intense pressure that girls face, the response during crisis at best ignores girls’ unique needs and at worst shuts them out. Inequalities in health and in the economy are products of a patriarchal system that devalues and exploits girls. We have an opportunity to ensure girls and young women are front and centre in response and recovery efforts.

Now is the time to increase support to girls.

In these challenging times, there is still hope. Across the world, local communities are organising and collectivising at an unprecedented scale. Never has there been a truer example of citizen organising power, and of the deep transnational bonds that connect us all as humans.  Whether they know it or not, these communities are using the very organising tools that girl activists and their feminist allies have been using for decades in their struggles for justice. Indeed, it has never been more important to learn from the leadership of the girls and young women who live through lock-downs, political uncertainty and economic instability every day.

 

As in any crisis, we know many efforts to organise in the context of COVID-19 are being led by girls and young women, but as usual they will not be resourced or recognised for their work. We will need the creativity, the spirit, the sheer resilience of girl and young women activists more and more as these days unfold.

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Illustrations by María Ponce