School Closures Hit Girls Hardest
UNESCO estimates school closures caused by COVID-19 have left 743 million girls out of school, and many will face disproportionate challenges to return. In some countries, the disruption could cause girls to lose up to 50 percent of their total years of education. 10 million secondary-school-aged girls are estimated to not return to school after the pandemic. The school closures also increase risks of sexual exploitation, teen pregnancies, and early and forced marriage. Following the Ebola epidemic, youth pregnancy in Sierra Leone increased by up to 65 percent in some communities.
Poland Introduces Bill to Curb Abortion Rights
This week, the Polish parliament debated a controversial bill that would limit the exceptions for legal abortion. Poland’s abortion law is already the most restrictive of its European neighbors only allowing the procedure in cases of rape or serious fetal abnormality. When a similar bill was introduced in 2016, more than 100,000 protestors took to the streets in what was termed “Black Monday,” and the bill was withdrawn. Protestors turned out again this week despite the lockdown, standing six feet apart, flying flags from their windows, and starting an online #ProtestAtHome campaign. Several American states have also taken steps to limit abortion during the COVID-19 crisis.
Women Heads of State Take Swift COVID-19 Response
As governments try to contain COVID-19, many countries led by women have been applauded for their strong responses to the pandemic. Taiwan’s first woman president, Tsai Ing-Wen, led a swift, effective defense to the pandemic. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a trained scientist, was commended for her powerful March 18th speech and management of the crisis. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern quickly implemented a strict lockdown in New Zealand, eliminating the spread of the virus. The women heads of state in Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland have also been commended for their successful actions to address COVID-19. Less than 10 percent of countries globally have a female head of state.