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REPORT: Nairobi Youth Facing Critical Impacts on Livelihoods following COVID-19 Pandemic

Impact of Covid-19 on young people in Kenya

By Winnie Kabintie

The Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions enforced in Kenya to curb the spread of the virus have had a gendered impact on the social and economic lives of adolescents and young adults in the country.

Results show that Nairobi youth are facing critical impacts on their livelihoods and family life since the COVID-19 restrictions began. Gender differentials are evident,” the study says.

According to the study, young women and girls have been most affected. The study was conducted by Performance Monitoring for Action (PMA) in collaboration with the International Centre for Reproductive Health Kenya (ICRHK), Kenyatta University, and a multidisciplinary team of Johns Hopkins University faculty. Data collection was conducted from August to October 2020.

The report observes that young women significantly more time spent on caregiving and household responsibilities as compared with young men, while young men are more likely to have given up schooling for income generation. The majority of youth (94% of women and 95% of men) experienced disruption to their formal employment or informal income generation (such as street vending), with over half (54%) of women reporting an increase in financial reliance on others since COVID-19 restrictions began, compared to 36% of men.

These data echo global concerns that the social and economic disruption of the pandemic will fall more heavily on women, and we see that here for young people.   Economic insecurity and gender-based violence loom large for young women in this crisis,” said Dr. Michele Decker, Principal Investigator and Bloomberg Associate Professor of American Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The study echoes global concerns and similar data by other reports including the recent one by UN Women, that the social and economic disruption of the pandemic will fall more heavily on women.

“So young women face substantial economic risks that extend financial dependence on their male partners. We also see gender differences in time use and time use substitution — where young women tend to continue to play roles which are defined to home care and caregiving in houses, and for men income generation,” said DR Decker.

Transactional Sex

The Study further reveals that the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated transactional sex among young people following loss of incomes and job opportunities, saying about “half of young men and women (45% and 53% respectively) have not been able to meet their basic needs (i.e. food, rent) since the COVID-19 restrictions began”.

“Due to loss of income and lack of job opportunities, youth are experiencing profound financial and social distress, which has serious implications for health and safety.  These resource constraints have exacerbated transactional sex and violence for young women in Nairobi. More than one-third (36%) of young women reported one or more transactional partnerships in the past year, with financial dependence on those relationships increasing since COVID-19 restrictions.” the report says.

Covid-19 Deepens Gender Inequalities

According to the UN, the pandemic is deepening pre-existing gender inequalities, exposing vulnerabilities in social, political and economic systems which are in turn amplifying the impacts of the pandemic.

“Across every sphere, from health to the economy, security to social protection, the impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbated for women and girls simply by virtue of their sex”.

A policy brief by the UN Secretary-General, released in April 2020,  explores how women and girls’ lives are changing in the face of COVID-19, and outlines suggested priority measures to accompany both the immediate response and longer-term recovery efforts.

The policy calls on governments responses to the Covid-19 recovery to place women and girls – their inclusion, representation, rights, social and economic outcomes, equality, and protection – at their center if they are to have the necessary impacts, saying that although Women will be the hardest hit by this pandemic but they will also be the backbone of recovery in communities.

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