New research from Theirworld, the global education charity, suggests that the pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on girls in Britain, with time normally allotted to schoolwork being given over to taking on additional household chores.
Two-thirds (66%) of girls and women aged between 14 and 24 say they are spending more time cooking for their families because of the pandemic, compared with just under a third (31%) of boys in the same age group.
Many are reporting a similar rise in undertaking such stereotypical household chores as doing the shopping (52%), cleaning (69%) and caring for sick relatives.
“There are reports that women’s equality could be pushed back by up to 10 years by the pandemic and this is a stark reminder that the fight for gender equality is ongoing,” said the chair of Theirworld, Sarah Brown.
“The findings from this study show that when girls are locked out of school they can easily become trapped in traditional household roles which can put their education in jeopardy.”
Globally, the impact of the pandemic on girls’ education is worse still. Before Covid-19, 132 million girls around the world were not in school; at the peak of subsequent school closures, that figure had risen to 767 million.
Theirworld reports that, without urgent action, it is feared that 11 million of those girls will never return to school. The charity is calling on world leaders to place learning at the heart of post-pandemic recovery and maintain or expand education budgets.
Theirworld animation illustrating how girls’ education unlocks big change
“These findings are alarming because they show that, in rich and poor countries alike, even when huge strides have been made in relation to gender equality, girls risk falling behind as a result of the pandemic,” said Justin van Fleet, president of Theirworld.
“This will have devastating consequences. Not just for girls, but for everyone, because the knock-on benefits of girls’ education are huge.
“As we emerge from the depths of the crisis, we must renew our commitment to education, particularly for girls, and remember that there is no better way of creating a more equitable recovery, and subsequently more equal societies, than prioritising girls’ education.”