During a humanitarian crises, conflict and disasters, state and social structures such as legal systems and protective mechanisms are weakened, making Sexual Gender Bases Violence and Harmful Traditional Practices even more likely to occur as a result of breakdown of legal and safety services in conflict, post conflict and humanitarian crisis settings with serious underreporting of cases. Similarly, education is generally the first service interrupted and the last resumed in conflict/humanitarian crisis situations. The aspect of mental health is another important factor that comes into play during a humanitarian crisis and emergency situations such as COVID-19 global pandemic. Furthermore, studies have shown that policies and public health efforts have not adequately addressed the gendered impacts of disease outbreaks . This is not any different in the response to the novel coronavirus disease 2019 an ongoing global pandemic. Governments are often overwhelmed by the needs and relief aid traditionally focuses on populations’ basic requirements – food, water, shelter and protection.
However in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a promising practice has emerged. As schools in Kenya closed down, a teacher in one school in Kajiado County, Kenya went against the grain and continued to provide education to pupils through the WhatsApp platform. The teacher formed a WhatsApp group for his pupils using their parents’ android phones. Through this medium, the teacher has been giving lessons and providing assignments. The teacher went even further by conducting personal home visits to the respective pupils homestead while observing social distancing rules. Parents interviewed said to appreciate the practice. Although the teacher lamented using his own personal resources such as buying data bundles to enable him communicate lessons and assignments, the intervention had a lot of buy in.
The determination of the teacher provides a glimpse into what could with a few tweaks, become a promising anti-FGM intervention. The practice of FGM is normally targeted at school going girls, with ceremonies especially planned to coincide with holiday breaks. In the current situation, COVID-19 occasioned the early closure of schools alongside safety and protective services such as courts and government offices, which has created a vacuum. Therefore the teacher’s singular act to continue with classes through WhatsApp may have been the saving grace that stalled any plans at cutting and marrying off girls in transactional marriages to sustain families as they seek to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
How can this Innovative solution work?
First, education still remains by far the most universally accepted medium for social advancement among all communities in Kenya with the girl child’s education receiving even greater attention. (...)