COVID-19 adaptation plan: transforming social norms and traditional practices

COVID-19, and the measures taken by governments worldwide to prevent its further spread, have a major impact on the lives of the girls and their families we work for. Now schools have been closed almost everywhere and meetings and travel are forbidden, can we still carry out our programme and are we still able to work towards our goal using our six programme strategies?  What about, for example, the fifth strategy: transforming social norms and traditional practices during lockdown?

In the communities where Her Choice operates, girls and women are already in a vulnerable position, but now, in addition to the health risk of COVID-19, they are at great risk of becoming victims of poverty, which is rapidly worsening as a result of the crisis, and increasing domestic violence[1]. Therefore, all ten Her Choice countries have developed an adapted plan for the Her Choice programme. These plans are based upon the recommendations from Girls Not Brides.[2] In the adapted plan, Her Choice will focus on activities that strengthen the safety and well-being of our target group, while continuing to use the six programme strategies. This approach enables Her Choice to continue to contribute to the programme results.

Regarding strategy 5 (transforming social norms and traditional practices) Her Choice keeps on focusing on community mobilization. Local partners are designing and distributing leaflets with messages on the role of community leaders in promoting safety of girls in this period of lockdown. All communities are being educated on simple handwashing technologies like the use of tippy-taps for effective handwashing.

Also, health professionals, religious leaders and communication experts are being sensitized on the importance of girls’ education and the negative effect of COVID-19 on the number of child marriages. Miet Chielens, coordinator of Her Choice at The Hunger Project Nederland, adds: ‘Special attention is given to their important role to ensure that girls return to school after the lockdown period. This will be crucial to prevent an increase of child marriages.’

[1] Research has taught us that the number of child marriages increases explosively in times of crisis and pandemics. We are therefore concerned about the consequences of this crisis on the wellbeing of our main target group: girls and women.

[2] Girls not Brides has developed a brief on child marriage and COVID-19 for all their development partners, including civil society and governments. It provides insights, recommendations and resources for responding to the needs of adolescent girls during and after this crisis, including those at risk of early marriage, married girls, and those in informal unions.