5 minute inspiration: Youth take charge in COVID responses

by 07th Jul 2020
Bizo Rachid, a university student in Niger Bizo Rachid, a university student in Niger

“Youth are rarely informed about their rights. During COVID, we’ve imposed ourselves so even the most disadvantaged young people have access to information about COVID. We hold sessions for young beggars and street children so they have information. I’ve been a part of that, and it makes me very happy.” – Bizo Rachid is 25, and getting a degree in Law and Communication in Niger.

Even though mortality rates are lower for young people, COVID-19 is still devastating their lives – from job prospects to education to finding food. But they aren’t waiting helplessly for older people to fix it. Youth are getting organised.

Of the nearly 12 million people CARE is currently helping to respond to COVID-19, more than 3.3 million of them are under the age of 18. In many countries, youth is defined as young people up to the age of 30, so many of our stories include people in their 20s.

“For this rainy season, I should have been in the village helping my parents with work in the fields. I should have been providing labour to other people in their fields to earn some money. But unfortunately, this year the university classes run through August.” – Ibrahim Yahaya, a university student in Zinder, Niger, talking about what COVID-19 is changing in his life.

What are youth doing to respond to COVID-19?

  • Raising money to help others: In Georgia and the Caucuses, youth groups CARE supports have raised about $5,000 USD locally to support lonely elderly people and people with disabilities during COVID.
  • Sharing information with others: In Chad, youth groups are sharing information on gender-based violence through their groups. In the Caucuses, they are using websites, Facebook, and social media to share information about COVID and guidelines with each other. In the Balkans, the Young Men Initiative adapted its mental health campaign ARE Y OK to COVID-19, including new Instagram challenges to engage young people to express themselves about mental health, violence, and COVID-19.
  • Lifting up their experiences: In Niger, Youth TEA – a youth innovation lab CARE supports – did a youth needs assessment to see what young people need in COVID-19. 89% say their incomes are decreasing, and 87% say conflicts in their lives have gone up.
  • Supporting hygiene: In Burundi, youth clubs in schools are installing handwashing stations.

How is CARE helping them?

  • Connecting youth to policy processes: In Palestine, CARE worked with two partner organisations to influence the Palestinian National Authority to include women-led organisations and youth groups as important partners in the COVID-19 response.
  • Helping youth organise a response: In Sudan – where we would normally work through community elders who hold a lot of power – CARE is engaging young people on sharing information and organising community response campaigns now that older people are at higher risk for COVID-19, and so can’t participate as much. In Burundi, Chad, Kenya, India, Niger, Sierra Leone, and other places, we’re working through existing youth groups to coordinate the response.
  • Focusing on sexual and reproductive health: CARE teams in Iraq, Niger, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Rwanda are focusing on adolescent girls to get hygiene supplies – especially menstrual hygiene supplies. Many CARE projects are including adolescents in programmes designed to help provide access to information about GBV and sexual health, and access to family planning supplies.
  • Helping them access finance: In Kenya, CARE granted about $5,000 to the women-led group Superb CBO Kenya. They are using a local community radio station, online campaigns and posters to reach out to girls and young women in Kibera with comprehensive knowledge and information on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and hygiene to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
  • Listening to what they need: Following Niger’s youth-led needs assessment, the CARE Youth network in West Africa is running a youth needs assessment across all of the countries in the region. So far, they’ve done more than 122 interviews, and will be presenting findings within the next week.
Emily Janoch

Emily Janoch is Senior Technical Advisor on Knowledge Management for the CARE USA Food and Nutrition Security team focusing on ways to better learn from and share practical experience on eradicating poverty through empowering women and girls. She focuses on learning from programming and using that learning to improve impact.

With four years of on-the-ground experience in West Africa, 10 years of development experience, and academic publications on community engagement and the human element in food security in Africa, Emily is especially interested in community-led development. She has experience in food security, nutrition, health, governance, and gender programming, and has a BA in International Studies from the University of Chicago, and a Masters' in Public Policy in International and Global Affairs from the Harvard Kennedy School.

Email: ejanoch@care.org