Lessons from COVID-19: Three Disproportionate Impacts of Education Disruptions on Young Women and Girls

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted and continues to impact student learning around the world. From “Learn at Home” programs to cancelled and revised school years, initial measures responding to the emergence of COVID-19 varied in their approach in Canada and around the world. In some cases, suspensions to learning were extended and persistent, with some regions of the world seeing school closures that extended into the start of 2022.

Given the slow movement toward global vaccine equity, the continued spread and impact of COVID-19 have led to recurring learning disruptions and setbacks to the delivery of education in Canada and around the world.

Here are three major impacts of disruptions to education on women and girls:

1. The Burden of Unpaid Care Work on Women and Girls

Lockdowns and school closures have seen more people stay at home, where the burden of unpaid care work has largely fallen on women and girls. As highlighted by worsened mental health outcomes, with girls around the world facing higher rates of stress, anxiety and depression, and 13 million fewer women working now than in 2019, reduced access to education has exacerbated the impact of prevailing gender inequities:

2. Heightened Vulnerability and Increased Barriers to Health Services

Lacking the community space and support systems offered by schools, school closures have heightened the vulnerability girls face to female genital mutilation (FGM), gender based violence, and forced marriages, which have all increased through the pandemic.  

As discussed by Danny Glenwright, President and CEO of Save the Children Canada, this has disproportionately affected girls in marginalized communities, where the denial of girls’ rights, such as education, are more prevalent:

3. Unequal Learning and Reduced Access to Comprehensive Sexuality Education

Prevailing disparities in internet and technology access have led to differing experiences of education through the COVID-19 pandemic. While some students were able to adopt e-learning platforms and remain engaged in education, many students around the world lacked the infrastructure and support to do so. With 2.2 billion people below the age of 25 lacking internet access at their homes, this has meant that children and adolescents around the world – and especially those in low-income countries – have faced new challenges to access the inclusive and quality education necessary to achieve gender equality and break poverty cycles:

Amid this digital divide, girls have faced challenges accessing digital tools and services that deliver sexual and reproductive health information and allow them to make informed decisions for themselves, their bodies and their futures.

Learn more about some of the work our members and partners are doing to support education around the world, check out some projects from our Project Explorer:

Back to School Better: Increasing Gender-Responsive Education for Refugee and Displaced Girls

Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Reproductive Health Services for Adolescent Girls

Data for Change: Addressing Barriers to Girls’ Education

Empowering Women and Girls through Education and Skills in the Chittagong Hill Tracts

Girls’ Education for a Better Future in the Great Lakes Region – Response to COVID-19

Girls’ Education in Conflict-affected Areas in Nigeria – Response to COVID-19

Improving Adolescent Girls’ Inclusive Education (IMAGINE) in Mali

Rights to Inclusive Education and Retention of Girls in School – Response to COVID-19

Strengthening access to safe education services for girls and boys internally displaced in Ethiopia

When she leads, everyone succeeds – Senegal


January 24, 2022