As millions face famine, women at risk as they eat last and least
by CARE International
With millions on the brink of famine in four nations, women and girls will be hardest hit due to cultural beliefs and COVID-19's economic impacts.
The coronavirus pandemic could nearly double the number of acutely food insecure people to more than 270 million by the end of 2020, the United Nations said this week, with famine looming in parts of Yemen, South Sudan, Burkina Faso and Nigeria.
"There is a huge risk that millions of women and girls around the world are already going hungry," Sarah Fuhrman, a humanitarian policy specialist with CARE.
"Everything we know about food security and who goes hungry indicates that women and girls are always at a particular risk for being the ones to eat last and the ones to eat least."
Women and girls are facing a double burden amid the COVID-19 pandemic, said CARE, with women's disproportionate job losses meaning many struggle to provide for their households, while social norms often dictate they should feed men and boys first.
CARE is calling for more funding to tackle COVID-19's impacts, as well as specific efforts to protect women and girls by ensuring they are involved in decision-making and programmes target their needs.
"If we don't have women and girls involved in telling us what's wrong and how to fix it, we are never going to get it right," said Fuhrman.
“The number of people experiencing serious food insecurity is projected to double over the course of 2020,” says CARE USA President & CEO Michelle Nunn. “Our report provides evidence on how profoundly the contraction of food and resources is impacting the 2 billion people living in fragile areas affected by armed conflict around the world.”
The report further reveals how conflict heightens food insecurity and causes the barriers to food production and processing due to violence destroying crops, livestock and essential infrastructure.
Conflict zones also have decreased accessibility so people and goods are unable to reach markets, causing food prices to skyrocket due to diminishing supply.
“Girls and women living with hunger and conflict are more likely to experience violence, transactional sex, and early and forced marriage. They are more likely to have their education interrupted and less likely to be able to resume their schooling,” says Nunn. “If we are going to prevent famine, national governments, non-profits, and the humanitarian sector must work together to address both the causes of conflict and food insecurity, as well as the ways in which women and girls are uniquely affected.”
CARE is calling on the U.S. government to provide at least $20 billion in further supplemental funding to respond to COVID-19 internationally to address food insecurity and other pandemic-related vulnerabilities.
* CARE report: “Sometimes We Don’t Even Eat- How Conflict and COVID-19 Are Pushing Millions of People to the Brink”: http://bit.ly/3lNcMk7
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Abuse and harassment driving girls off Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
by Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen
Largest ever global survey on online violence shows that one in five girls (19%) have left or significantly reduced use of a social media platform after being harassed, while another one in ten (12%) have changed the way they express themselves. Girls who use social media are routinely subjected to explicit messages
Girls and young women worldwide are demanding urgent action from social media companies after a landmark survey has revealed more than half (58%) have been harassed or abused online.
Attacks are most common on Facebook, where 39% say they have suffered harassment, but occur on every platform included in the global study including Instagram (23%), WhatsApp (14%), Snapchat (10%), Twitter (9%) and TikTok (6%).
Our latest research is based on a survey of 14,000 girls aged 15-25 in 22 countries, including Brazil, Benin, the USA and India, and a series of in-depth interviews.
The largest study of its kind, it found girls who use social media in high and low-income countries alike are routinely subjected to explicit messages, pornographic photos, cyberstalking and other distressing forms of abuse, and reporting tools are ineffective in stopping it.
Online violence has led to nearly one in five (19%) of those who have been harassed stopping or significantly reducing their use of the platform on which it happened, while another one in ten (12%) have changed the way they express themselves.
Abuse also damages girls’ lives offline, with one in five (22%) of those surveyed saying they or a friend have been left fearing for their physical safety, while 44% say social media companies need to do more to protect them.
Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of Plan International, said: “Although this research was gathered in conversation with more than 14,000 girls across multiple continents, they share similar experiences of harassment and discrimination.
“These attacks may not be physical, but they are often threatening, relentless, and limit girls’ freedom of expression. Driving girls out of online spaces is hugely disempowering in an increasingly digital world, and damages their ability to be seen, heard and become leaders.”
“Disappointingly, they are being left to deal with online violence on their own, with profound consequences for their confidence and wellbeing. With COVID-19 driving more of our lives online and with internet access around the world improving, it is time for digital platforms to step up and protect their users.”
The most common type of attack is abusive and insulting language, reported by 59% of girls who have been harassed, followed by purposeful embarrassment (41%), body shaming and threats of sexual violence (both 39%).
More than a third (37%) of girls who are from an ethnic minority and have suffered abuse say they are targeted because of their race or ethnicity, while more than half (56%) of those who identify as LGBTIQ+ say they are harassed because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
The report – titled Free to be online? Girls’ and young women’s experiences of online harassment – found that social media is a significant part of young people’s lives and is widely used for activism, entertainment, to learn and to keep in touch with friends and family.
Three-quarters (74%) of those surveyed say they post frequently or very frequently, while interviews suggest that COVID-19 has made being online even more important.
In the words of one young woman, 18, from Nepal: “Social media is very important these days, and I often keep using for three to four hours a day.”
However, this leaves girls vulnerable to new forms of abuse, with 50% saying online harassment is more common than street harassment.
Harassment takes profound toll on girls' wellbeing
Describing her experience of using social media as a young girl, one woman from Sudan, now 20, said: “I used to get a lot of messages from boys asking me to send nudes or blackmailing me about a picture that I posted that they're going share it or edit it in a bad way and share it with everyone if I don't do this or that.
“Or just generally talking, like saying bad words to me. At that young age it was, honestly, horrible. So, it was the worst time in my life, using social media. Between the age of 9 and 14.”
Although one in three (35%) have reported perpetrators, abuse persists because they can make new accounts and significant numbers of people need to report harmful content before action is taken.
Another girl from Ecuador, 17, who was interviewed for the study said: “I would block but he would create more profiles and keep sending me pictures of me.”
Harassment takes a profound toll on girls’ confidence and wellbeing, with 39% of those surveyed saying it lowers self-esteem, 38% saying it creates mental and emotional stress and 18% saying it can cause problems at school.
Girls are calling for action to end online abuse
The research was carried out as part of Girls Get Equal, Plan International’s global campaign for a world where girls and young women have the power to be leaders and shape the world around them.
As part of the campaign, girls around the world have written an open letter to Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter calling on them to create stronger and more effective ways to report abuse and harassment.
Plan International is also asking governments worldwide to implement specific laws to deal with online gender-based violence and ensure girls who suffer it have access to justice.
Ms Albrectsen says: “Social media companies have the power to make change. They must do more to tackle harmful behaviour and ensure that their platforms are safe environments that allow girls, young women, LGBTQ+ young people and other groups that are vulnerable to harassment to fully express themselves and play their rightful role in shaping the modern world.”
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