Disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on young girls: Survey. (Photo: Unsplash). Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, Oct 23 : Revealing a marked gender divide in the distribution of housework during the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey reveals that a greater number of girls (39 per cent) were required to contribute to housework as opposed to the number of boys (35 per cent), while more boys (31 per cent) had the luxury to devote their time to studying than girls (27 per cent).

In fact, the household activities girls were mainly involved in included activities like household cleaning, cooking, washing clothes, washing utensils, taking care of siblings, whereas boys were found spending a majority of their time watching TV, on the phone, farming, interacting with relatives, and so on, says a new survey by Centre for Catalyzing Change (C3) among 7200 adolescents from four states, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Odisha.

Conducted in two rounds in the months of April, July and August 2020, it delved into four overarching topics: adolescents' awareness of COVID-19 symptoms and prevention, adolescents' access to basic health services and education during the lockdown, and how much agency they can exercise or how much vulnerability they face while being confined to their homes during this period.

In terms of technology, there was a clear disparity as well. Only 22 per cent of the girls surveyed knew how to use online learning platforms and only 12 per cent had access to their own mobile phones to be able to attend online classes without distractions.

In comparison, 35 per cent boys had access to their own mobile phones. Further, 51 per cent of the adolescent girls surveyed lacked access to essential textbooks in comparison to boys, highlighting how the pandemic had jeopardized girls' access to education. In light of this, it wasn't surprising that more adolescent girls reported that they were likely to drop out of school because of the challenges of the pandemic than the number of boys.

A higher number of adolescent girls reported that they felt vulnerable to domestic violence and sexual harassment during the lockdown. But even outside the home, girls also stated how their mobility has been curbed - with only 39 per cent girls saying they were allowed to go out alone in comparison to the 62 per cent boys of the same age who were allowed to go out alone.

Adolescence is a critical developmental period that has the power to shape an individual's dreams, perspectives and future aspirations. However, COVID-19 has struck an unprecedented blow in the lives of adolescents all across the country, from disruptions in formal education to the lack of availability of essential resources to barriers in accessing health services. And those from rural and low-income communities have been affected the most, says C3.

While 9 out of 10 adolescents surveyed knew that coronavirus spreads from one person to another through person-to-person contact, there were gaps in awareness around the prevention and symptoms of the disease. 'Using masks' was the most common method of prevention reported by adolescents (at 95 per cent), followed by 'washing hands using soap' (71 per cent) and 'social distancing' (64 per cent). However, when asked in detail, some did not know the correct duration of washing hands with soap was, and the correct amount of gap to be maintained for physical distancing.

(Siddhi Jain can be contacted at siddhi.j@ians.in)

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