The Lasting Impacts on Education for Girls & Women From the COVID-19 Pandemic

Back To School

As students worldwide return to school in hopes of semi-normalcy, it is estimated around 11 million girls will not be taking a seat. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, these 11 million girls are subject to higher chances of adolescent pregnancy, violence, forced marriage, and other issues that vary from country to country. 

While there are factors keeping girls out of school, there are additional issues facing students inside of the classroom as well. In the 2021 United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights report titled, “The Disparate Impacts of COVID-19 on America’s Students,” several observations are found that impact students of all ages. These observations include negative academic growth, mental health access issues, raised identity-based harassment, lack of disability services, and more.

Global Concerns

While there are limited studies showing the mental and social impact on students globally, McKinsey & Company summarized some early findings in their article “How COVID-19 caused a global learning crisis”. In Latin America and the Caribbean, more than 80 million children stopped receiving hot meals. In Uganda, a record number of monthly teenage pregnancies—more than 32,000—were recorded from March 2020 to September 2021. In Bangladesh, a cross-sectional study revealed that 19.3 percent of children suffered moderate mental-health impacts, while 7.2 percent suffered from extreme mental-health effects. Chronic absenteeism has been identified as a trend in several countries, leading the question of how many children may never return to school.

Mental Health

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited in a 2021 report concerning suicide attempts that “In May 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, ED [Emergency Department] visits for suspected suicide attempts began to increase among adolescents aged 12–17 years, especially girls. During February 21–March 20, 2021, suspected suicide attempt ED visits were 50.6% higher among girls aged 12–17 years than during the same period in 2019; among boys aged 12–17 years, suspected suicide attempt ED visits increased 3.7%.”

Opportunity For Support

These alarming statistics show that girls especially need our help and support. Soroptimist’s curriculum-based program, Dream It, Be It: Career Support for Girls provides the support that is so desperately needed, and prepares girls for a brighter future. Through this program, girls receive the guidance, training and resources to help prepare for career success. Of our 84,000 participants around the world:  

  • 88% feel more confident about their future success
  • 87% feel more prepared to pursue their career goals
  • 88% created achievable goals for their future
  • 87% have new tools to overcome obstacles to their success

According to UNESCO, just one more year of school can increase a girl’s earnings as an adult by up to 20%. By reaching girls while they are still young, we not only can help them stay healthy and safe in the short term, but we can reduce the number of women in crisis in the future. Putting them on a path will help them realize their dreams.

Help Our Impact

If you would like to empower girls to prepare for a brighter future, consider donating to the Dream It, Be It Program.

Sierra Snigier is the Global Marketing & Engagement Coordinator for Soroptimist of the Americas. She enjoys reading non-fiction, watching her favorite shows, exploring the outdoors, and learning something new.