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Data Is Important: Assessing the Impacts of COVID-19 on Girls

By: Amiry Abdallah Kaiza

I am a health advocate and I believe in evidence-based advocacy. My name is Amiry Abdallah Kaiza. I live in Tanzania in a district called Kibaha Urban and in the Pwani Region.I am trained youth advocate under the Youth Leaders for Health Program under the leadership of Health Promotion Tanzania- HDT.

Why did I decide to do a survey?

Since the eruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have experienced a lot of changes in Tanzania and globally as well. Many countries went into lockdown and nothing was going on. Restaurants and bars were closed, sports games were banned, international travel through ground and airplane became difficult, schools and universities were closed and so many things became stagnant.

Tanzania did not introduce the lockdown strategy as many countries have done to curb the spread of the virus. Tanzania introduced some partial measures including: compulsory quarantine for fourteen days for people coming from outside the country (arrivals), closing of all schools and universities, working from home and banning of all sports activities. The introduction of these measures has brought some changes and difficulties in the country. Some have lost their jobs and income; some s feel isolated and humiliated. Due to the negative impacts caused by the pandemic, the organization I work with, Tanzania Red Cross Society decided to conduct a baseline survey to determine the impacts of COVID-19 on girls in Tanzania with a focus on education, sexual and reproductive health, WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) and child protection. We wanted to determine how children and young girls have been affected since the emergence of COVID-19.

Survey design

The survey is planned to run throughout one month starting from 1st June and winding up on 30th June, 2020. We have formed a team of 5 people, composed of two men and three women aiming to perform 600 surveys i.e. 120 surveys each. My survey focuses on Impacts of COVID-19 on education, sexual and reproductive health, WASH and child protection in the rural and urban communities in Pwani, Tanzania.  The survey contains 82 questions and involves the collection of first hand data through phone interviews. My organisations helped me sort out respondents where the main criterion was for the gender status of the respondents to be female. Soon after the selection, I was handed their phone numbers from the organisation database.

So far, I have already interviewed 90 respondents, girls and women. I have interviewed children involved in school clubs and their parents or guardians. I collect both qualitative and quantitative data based on the survey collection tools. The work has been overwhelming but enjoyable. My target is to interview at least nine respondents a day allocating approximately thirty minutes per person. Talking throughout the day has been a bit difficult for me because even though I am a trained health advocate, I am not used to talking to people every day and for many hours. Talking! Talking! Talking! This is my daily routine these days.

On the other hand, I find myself enjoying the experience because I am learning and identifying new things happening in my community daily.  For example, one day I was interviewing a female parent in my region. I posed a question, asking her to tell me the challenges young girls are facing especially this time when schools are closed. She responded by telling me that, in her village at least four school young girls are pregnant because currently they are not busy with studies and find themselves having nothing to do to keep them occupied. I felt so sad when I heard this news. I started thinking about how they are going to continue with their studies, how are they going to cope with the changes in their bodies because they are still young. I had so many questions popping in my head.  I thought about how irresponsible and predatory the men who had caused this were – seemingly taking advantage of the COVID-19 times.

Apart from that, and in terms of education, I have identified that some girls do not have people to help and teach them their school subjects at home making them miss a lot of knowledge and sad enough, they do not have access to radio and television where they could attend programmed classes through listening or watching. Also, many parents and guardians are very shy to educate their young girls on sexual and reproductive health leading to poor self-hygiene.  Families have adapted a new culture of washing their hands with clean water and soap every time taking into the consideration the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health to avoid contracting the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the fact there is new adapted way of living, many girls facing the challenge of the availability of sanitary pads in their homes unlike when at school.  On the other hand, child labour has emerged in some families due to life hardships. Some parents think this is a golden opportunity for them to utilize their children in businesses they are involved.

I sense a complex interaction between protection of the girl child, economic survival of households, and availability of items so strengthen hygiene and sanitation and fear of a ravaging disease.

I have been tasked to make sure that I fill all the information captured from the respondents. This is challenging work because I need to be very careful and settled in order to avoid missing data. Soon after completing data collection, our organisation will take the lead to analyse the data obtained through SPSS and Microsoft Excel systems.

The final results of the analysis will be used to influence and advocate for change in the community through the formation of new strategies to address the needs of young girls and children during the time of COVID-19 pandemic.

For sure, this survey has made me think about phone advocacy as a method that could be exploited especially during these times of pandemic. Because it is quite cheap and less time consuming since you only need a phone and the contacts of people you want to deal with

My advice to Youth Leaders, every day and every time is to strive to enjoy and learn from what you are doing. You will find that it is possible to accomplish your goals and became successful.

I am grateful, to Dr Sylvia Anie, a mentor, who instilled in me the need for data, for evidence to guide advocacy. In her words, “When you are able to collect and use evidence, your message as a health advocate becomes sharper and more acceptable” unquote.

Thank you.


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