Press release: Girls in cities recommend bold and concrete action in new study

From: EMpower
Published: Wed Apr 14 2021

Adolescent girls from 7 cities in India interviewed their peers to understand the real impact of COVID on girls.

There are major setbacks in access to education and healthcare for those living in resource-poor settings.

Increased gender-based violence suggests the worsening of an already precarious situation for girls.

However, girls remain hopeful, and they have made actionable recommendations for the government, city planners, civil society, corporates, and funders to help facilitate recovery from the pandemic.

A new study released today reveals girls' perspectives on how their lives have changed since the COVID-19 pandemic hit and presents their recommendations for actions the government, city planners, corporates, and others should take. The girls report that their lives have been negatively impacted in many ways, with the crisis exacerbating pre-existing inequities. Pressure to marry early, increased chores, depression, and limited access to education and work opportunities are among the major challenges they report.

The study was carried out by a group of 25 girls from 7 cities: Ahmedabad, Alwar, Bareily, Delhi, Lucknow, Mumbai and Pune. Supported by the UK government in India within its broader work to support sustainable urban development and conceived and conducted by EMpowerThe Emerging Markets Foundation, the study adopted a unique methodology that trained girls as researchers to conduct interviews with 153 girls from their communities. "We believe that girls are experts in their lives and they can not only lift up the realities of the pandemic, but they are best placed to advise us about how to re-build post pandemic." said Dr. Nisha Dhawan, Country Director of EMpower in India.

The study illustrates that the precarious situation of girls pre-COVID has only worsened after the pandemic. All girls who were interviewed from Alwara district of Rajasthan where the child sex ratio dropped from 887 in 2001 to 865 in 2011reported an increased pressure to get married and 5 out of 6 girls reported some form of mental health distress. Nearly all of the girls who believed there was an increase in gender-based violence during the lockdown were from two cities alone: Lucknow and Alwar. The overwhelming majority (80%) of girls said household chores continue to be their responsibility, despite everyone being home during the lockdown, and only 9% said that male relatives help in household chores.

Seema Dosad, a member of EMpower's Girls Advisory Council, a girl-led group that advises EMpower, said: "Before, girls were used to facing the "usual problems," but COVID created some "new problems" that the girls weren't even aware of. I'm not sure if previous days were [actually] better or if we were just blindfolded by the fact that we were used to those issues."

Amongst the biggest barriers girls currently face is accessing education and adapting to online learning. Respondents also cited financial loss in their households, decreased mobility, and job loss as major challenges. A staggering 90% of girls and young women reported mental health issues during COVID, ranging from mental distress to depression, lingering sadness, lack of confidence, loneliness, and feelings of helplessness.

As a part of the research process, the girl leaders clearly articulated what needs to change, sharing specific recommendations for the government, city planners, funders, corporates, and civil society organisations that they feel are crucial. Their recommendations include building safe and violence-free spaces in public parks to talk about mental health, creating digital hubs in communities for girls to access the internet, establishing girls-only spaces within the community where they can come should they feel the threat of violence, and investing in blended learning options beyond the pandemic.

Despite the many challenges they face, the girls are still hopeful about their prospects. The study argues that their voices need to be heard now and government, community, business, and other leaders must take actions to ensure girls are an essential part of India's recovery. "What I did find heartening was that many of the girls stayed positive and were still hopeful about the future. This hope can only fructify if girls, and their recommendations, are listened to," noted Dr. Ravinder Kaur, Professor of Sociology and Social Anthropology at IIT Delhi.

The study can be downloaded here:

Media contact: Prachi Gupta,

About EMpower

EMpower supports and works closely with local, dedicated organisations in emerging market countries focused on solutions that integrate the voices and experiences of marginalised young people (age 10-24). Keeping gender and inclusion at the heart of everything we do, our impact areas are: economic well-being, inclusive learning, and safe, healthy lives.

About UK in India

UK in India's targeted and catalytic support is designed to help India address its constraints to growth, accelerate development for the good of all its people and generate a return for Britain by creating new markets for trade and investment.
Company: EMpower
Contact Name: Prachi Gupta
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