Helping others during a pandemic can be a rewarding way to give back at a time when all of us are feeling worried and anxious about our health and the future.
During this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen a range of human reactions from selfish panic buying at the grocery stores to selfless communities rallying together to support front-line health workers, local food banks and those who need it most.
It’s the kindness of others during hard times that reassures us and inspires us to give back in our own ways too. So, in the spirit of celebrating those heroes among us, we would like to introduce you to inspirational youth who we’re proud to support through our youth empowerment work in countries across the globe.
From stopping child marriages to making face masks, meet 3 empowered youth and see how they are helping others in the midst of COVID-19.
Helping others by stopping child marriages
Meet Fanta – she’s a determined young woman who’s raising awareness of issues affecting communities across Guinea through her youth group. Right now, the focus is on preventing the spread of COVID-19 and ensuring girls remain safe while quarantine measures are in place.
“We are a nationwide youth association that is resolutely committed to fight this virus, no contribution is too much in the battle against this pandemic,” she says.
With the support of Plan International, Fanta’s youth group was established to contribute to the reduction of gender-based violence, especially child marriage in Guinea. Over half of all girls in Guinea are married before their 18th birthday and 19% are married before the age of 15. According to UNICEF, Guinea has the eighth highest prevalence rate of child marriage in the world.
“No more than two weeks ago, we stopped an early marriage which was due to take place in 24 hours, after we were alerted by our watch teams,” says Fanta.
“Sometimes we are criticised and even insulted, but this does not discourage us because there are more people who encourage us than those who are against us. We are confident that they will all eventually understand the meaning of our struggle.”
Thanks to their training, Fanta and her friends are also mindful of the forms of violence that girls can experienced during a lockdown situation. With all schools closed and girls and women confined to their homes, the risk of violence against women and girls is high.
“We have informed all our branches throughout the country not to lower their guard. Malicious people can take advantage of this period of confinement to abuse girls,” says Fanta.
“They will think that no one is watching them because the news is all about coronavirus. So yes, we are raising awareness about the virus, but at the same time we are highlighting the risk that girls are facing at home.”
Sewing face masks for the most vulnerable
Koumba, 15, is a student at Plan International’s apprenticeship centre in the Koulikoro region of Mali where she is learning tailoring skills.
After the first case of COVID-19 was announced in Mali, she says that the price of handwashing kits, sanitizers, and face masks increased.
“Despite the government’s instructions to make these products accessible to the population, only the privileged few have the possibility of buying them,” she explains.
Wanting to do more to help keep her community safe, Koumba and her fellow tailoring apprentices decided to use their sewing skills to make face masks from washable cloth.
“We feel like we are taking more responsibility in the response to this pandemic through this activity. Everyone at their own level should contribute to the eradication of the coronavirus.”
So far, a total of 450 face masks have been made and distribution of them has already begun. The masks are being given to vulnerable groups, particularly the elderly.
“We have received handwashing kits and soap from Plan International, so these face masks are an additional protective measure. Most face masks are expensive and not reusable, but these are reusable,” she says, adding “We know how to create them, and we can show others how to do it, thanks to the training we received at the centre.”
Inventing solutions to help protect others
Chung, 14, is a Plan International sponsored child with a passion for electronics. He has become quite well-known in his village for mending broken radios and phones, so when the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Vietnam, Chung decided to set about designing a device that could help.
After his initial research, Chung began designing an automated hand sanitizer dispenser from parts and materials he purchased using all his savings.
“It’s fairly simple and works using an infrared sensor,” says Chung. “You just need to put your hands under the dispenser, the sensor will register, and this sends a signal to the processor. The processor makes the device dispense a pre-determined amount of gel. There’s also clear instructions on how to use the device on the sides so people can use it to avoid unnecessary contact.”
Already, Chung’s village is enjoying the benefits of the new hand sanitizer dispenser as it’s been placed in the village centre where everyone can access it. There have even been demands for his contraption to be replicated and placed at more points around the village too.
“This device encourages people to use the hand sanitiser more often,” says Chung. “I wanted to create this device to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, so life will soon return to normal.”
Empowering youth to make a difference
Plan international is proud to support youth around the world – helping them stand up for their rights and use their voices to make a difference not only in their lives, but in the lives of others too.
In the wake of COVID-19, we are mobilizing youth groups in various countries to reach the most vulnerable and share valuable information that could help save countless lives.
If you want to learn more about how Plan International is responding to COVID-19 as it continues spread in countries where we work, then please visit our COVID-19 response page.
Questions related to this story:
- How can youth change the world?
- How does covid-19 impact girls?
- What is gender-based violence?
- What causes child marriage?
- What are the social injustices girls face?