In an attempt to reduce the infection rate of COVID-19, the UK, much like many other countries, have been in a nationwide government-enforced lockdown for 7 weeks. The closures of schools, limitations on when and why we can leave our houses, and social distancing when in public, have had a huge impact on the country’s economy and our day to day lives. There is no doubt that the past two months have been difficult.
However, recent research has shown that lockdown is having an increasingly detrimental impact on girls living in the UK, worsening pre-existing issues including mental health, period poverty and accessible healthcare. Children’s charity Plan International UK have reported that lockdown has ‘exacerbated barriers to girls’ rights. Around 40% of girls in the UK feel that their mental health has deteriorated since lockdown started back in March. Many of these girls attribute this to not being able to attend school and worrying about their future exams. Social media was also highlighted as contributing to girl’s poor mental health, as we spend increased amounts of time online. In fact, Europe has seen a rise in revenge porn during lockdown.
Period poverty, already prevalent in the UK pre-lockdown, has also gotten worse, as Plan International UK noted that almost a third of girls have been unable to access sanitary products during lockdown. Many girls rely on free products available at schools across the UK. As lockdown has seen the closure of schools for all students (excluding children of key workers), the majority of girls are no longer able to access them. Furthermore, though sanitary products are available at food banks, they are facing a huge increase in demand and many girls are unaware that this resource exists. Consequently, some girls have been unable to access affordable sanitary products for two months and counting. This is a huge concern.
Girls have also reported that they now feel less safe going outside than they did pre-lockdown, with many still experiencing public harassment. With less people out on the streets and police busy enforcing the lockdown, girls feel anxious that help will not be available if needed. Plan International UK’s CEO Rose Caldwell has commented on the charity’s recent research, insisting that it is absolutely vital we do not “turn back the clock on girls’ rights” as a consequence of Coronavirus. Lockdown is saving lives by helping reduce the virus’ spread, but it is also important we recognise that vulnerable girls are struggling and need support now more than ever.
Girl Museum Inc.