The implications of COVID-19 for girls and women are undeniable.
During this period, they are more likely to suffer gender-based violence and reduced access to health services. Among marginalized girls, girls with disabilities run an even higher risk of isolation, health and safety issues and barriers in accessing information and justice.
The Strategic Approaches to Girls’ Education program (STAGE), implemented in Ghana by World Education, works to enable and empower the girls through community support and engagement. During the pandemic, the program offers a combination of small group work, interactive radio instruction, audio messaging sensitization and phone check-ins.
STAGE Community Oversight Committee members conduct regular household visits to monitor if girls are actively participating in literacy, numeracy and life skills sessions. The committee also ensures that parents or caregivers are involved, enabling them to be supportive in the progress of their children living with disabilities.
Individual support is crucial for girls in their continued learning. Using data on attendance, motivation, learning, and well being, the team works with parents and communities to identify successes and challenges for each girl. The visits are also used to update the girls on the most recent information shared by STAGE about COVID-19, Sexual Reproductive Health and protection against Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment. Staff from local NGOs have updated and disseminated information on the health and psychosocial support in their districts to ensure that quality health care is available to the girls and their communities.
Out of the 11,000+ girls currently in the program, STAGE has identified that more than 10% of the girls face one or more visual, hearing, physical, intellectual or speech impairment. To ensure access to continued support and care, STAGE has set up a referral mechanism for all girls and works with the Department of Social Welfare. Community Oversight Committee members, community facilitators, and community-based peer educators will assist girls with learning and homework. Additionally, girls with disabilities are also engaged in community outreach activities, whilst maintaining COVID-19 safety regulations.
Girls with disabilities are engaged in the construction of hand washing facilities and in vocational training to make soap to reduce the spread of COVID-19. World Education is committed to giving them the confidence, education and and tools they need to improve their livelihoods and their communities.