IDS' emergency mask making initiative underway.
COVID-19 RELIEF
IDS' emergency mask making initiative underway.
EMERGENCY COVID-19 HEALTH AND SAFETY INITIATIVE

COVID-19 disproportionately impacts child marriage survivors and girls at risk.


Unfortunately, the global COVID-19 pandemic has made its way into many of the communities Too Young to Wed (TYTW) serves directly. The spread of the disease threatens catastrophic consequences on the vulnerable girls and young women we work to empower: child marriage, abduction, trafficking, and female genital mutilation (FGM) survivors in Yemen, Nigeria, Kenya, and Nepal. As more national and local governments enforce anti-density measures, the widespread closures of schools, girls’ centers, and emergency shelters force many girls back into harmful situations from which they have previously fled.


TYTW’s Emergency COVID-19 Health and Safety Initiative provides vital supports for both health and safety in the affected areas. The Initiative urgently expands programming in each of TYTW’s target countries to address two key objectives: keeping the girls safe from harmful practices during this time of global upheaval, and keeping them and their communities healthy.

Young women and girls show hygiene kits received a
Young women and girls show hygiene kits received a
KENYA: ENHANCED SAFETY MEASURES

Following global trends to contain the spread of coronavirus, the Kenyan government ordered the shutdown of schools as well as density reduction measures, impacting the 330 girls served through our implementing partner Samburu Girls Foundation (SGF), and ordering nearly all girls staying at the center to return to their home communities. While the closure of schools and other safe institutions like the girls’ center has meant varying challenges for families across the globe, in Kenya and the other regions in which TYTW works, it means the girls are now once again vulnerable to forced marriages, FGM, and other harmful practices.


TYTW mobilized immediately to inject urgently needed resources for sanitizing, food, medical support, staff logistical capacity and transportation, improved safety programming, and more. We have increased staff capacity in Kenya to support alternative safe placements and safe stay arrangements for girls in the most dangerous situations, increased case management and monitoring through home visits, and increased community reconciliation measures which include a signed family agreement on no harmful practices, in order to facilitate the safest possible living situation transitions for the girls.


TYTW has put immediate health measures into place as well, including soap distribution and public health education measures on handwashing and how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. TYTW funded an emergency motorbike purchase for SGF, will help to save the organization countless funds on using car hires / taxis as previously had, while significantly increasing their transportation capacity to respond to urgent safety situations and needs that arise.


TYTW continuously mobilizes emergency intervention measures to halt planned mass forced female genital mutilation (FGM) of young girls, a precursor practice to marriages. TYTW and our partners have ensured rigorous monitoring by the appropriate authorities, like the local County police, Gender Department, and Anti-FGM Board. Unfortunately, as girls lose the support of protective institutions like schools and centers, and are increasingly perceived as burdens in the home, their likelihood of being forced into harmful situations like these will continue to rise.


TYTW continuously mobilizes emergency intervention measures to halt planned mass forced female genital mutilation (FGM) of young girls, a precursor practice to marriages. TYTW and our partners have ensured rigorous monitoring by the appropriate authorities, like the local County police, Gender Department, and Anti-FGM Board. Unfortunately, as girls lose the support of protective institutions like schools and centers, and are increasingly perceived as burdens in the home, their likelihood of being forced into harmful situations like these will continue to rise.


TYTW is also taking proactive measures of launching a Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign, which kicked off with a moderated hour-long segment on Maralal’s Serian FM, engaging high-level stakeholders including a child marriage survivor and TYTW scholarship recipient, along with local leaders and CEO of the Kenyan government’s Anti-FGM Board, in a discussion about the increase in gender-based violence as a result of COVID-19, and the collective responsibility of the entire community to protect girls’ safety and hold perpetrators of violence accountable. The segment aired during a prime-time evening slot and reached hundreds of thousands of local households in the northern pastoralist communities of Kenya, where local experts estimate as many of 50% of girls are forced into marriage before their 12th birthdays.

NIGERIA: URGENT MEDICAL AND ECONOMIC MEASURES

In Nigeria, where TYTW continues its partnership with the Intercommunity Development Social Organization (IDS) to support Boko Haram abduction survivors--some of the most deeply traumatized women and children in the world--we have launched a special initiative to simultaneously address the issues of pressing institutional health needs amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and individual economic security for the most vulnerable.


TYTW previously provided seamstress vocational training and funds for sewing machines to a subset of the survivors who had expressed interest in tailoring. Now, in collaboration with IDS’s mask-making initiative, TYTW’s beneficiaries employ their professional skills to help produce more than 1,000 masks per day, for free distribution to medical professionals as well as vulnerable women/girls affected by this humanitarian emergency. The mask-makers receive monetary compensation for their production, helping to address an urgent economic security gap that threatens the women’s personal safety in the event of lost income, an anticipated consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Women who struggle financially are more likely to be forced into dangerous living situations.) Additionally, all mask materials are sourced from local Nigerian markets, helping to serve as a stimulus for the local economy during a time of global financial crisis.

Young women and girls show hygiene kits received as part of a COVID-19 prevention program in northern Nigeria. Photo courtesy of IDS.

Yemen: Keeping Vulnerable Children Healthy, and Girls Safe from Gender-Based Violence

Among COVID-19’s many health threats, the pandemic threatens to increase child hunger and malnutrition, reduced water access, and gender-based violence (including child marriages) as the widespread closures of schools remove access to vital resources. The shuttering of schools in Yemen--where Too Young to Wed (TYTW) helped support more than 1000 vulnerable girls and boys with daily school breakfasts before the pandemic--has left many children hungry, losing access to the only meal many would eat in a day. 


TYTW has been working in Yemen for the last two years, bringing daily complete breakfasts to girls attending the Abdulla Al Baradoni School in Sana'a prior to the pandemic, as a preventative measure to keep girls in school and out of child marriages. Child marriage is often employed by families out of financial desperation, and only offers short-term economic relief. With our grassroots partner Solidarios Sin Fronteras (SSF), we have pivoted the program to focus on safe, sanitary meal delivery to the girls’ households, increasing access to clean water, and health education, in order to focus on the sanitary provision of the most urgent needs to children and families during the pandemic.


During a pandemic, hygiene and sanitation are matters of life and death. TYTW’s emergency water initiative ensures sanitary provision of the most fundamental of all human needs, clean and safe water. TYTW’s water initiative in partnership with SSF refills 21 water tanks (14 tanks in Raydah Camp, 7 in Arhab) twice per week. TYTW’s increased support of clean water helps support 5500 internally displaced persons throughout multiple camps -- mostly consisting of women and children – where the need for improved sanitation is most urgent.


TYTW’s sanitary food distribution initiative provides 300 food boxes to families with children (with a typical family size being 6-8 people), who live in abandoned buildings, displacement camps, and famine-affected areas. The food boxes contain red and white flour, rice, eggs, pasta, tuna, vegetables, tagine paste, milk powder, juice, cheese in portions, oil, salt, sugar, soap, detergent, and bleach. The food and water aid packages relieve a key economic burden faced by families, which in turn helps to prevent families from forcing their young daughters into marriage in an effort to ensure their material provision. Finally, in response to the pandemic, TYTW is providing public health support comprising soaps, sanitation assistance, and public education on containment/prevention of COVID-19.

Faten, co-founder of Solidarios Sin Fronteras, brings a month's worth of food vulnerable families this week in Sana'a.

Faten, co-founder of Solidarios Sin Fronteras, brings a month's worth of food vulnerable families this week in Sana'a.

NEPAL: SANITATION AND PREVENTION 

In Nepal, TYTW provides assistance to Kagati village, where we have worked for the past 13 years to help change social norms and prevent child marriage. Health and sanitation status are already poor in this vulnerable community, where the community’s 2100 inhabitants are still recovering from the devastating 2015 earthquakes. Only about 50% of households have toilets, much less running water. Consequently, TYTW is now working to provide soaps, sanitation measures, and public education materials distribution in local languages on containment/prevention of COVID-19.