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EMpower Webinar Spotlights How COVID-19 is Impacting Young People’s Mental Health in South Africa

Posted 29 September 2020 in EMpower News, Grantee Partner News   |   Share


EMpower and Citi’s e for education webinar series launched its second webinar this week. The webinar delved deeper into the impact that COVID-19 has had on young people in South Africa. Christina Keeler, Director FX Sales at Citigroup, introduced the Citi e for education campaign and the impact the campaign has had on young people globally. EMpower is proud to have been a partner of Citi’s campaign since it first started in 2013. This support has enabled EMpower to directly impact more than 110,000 young people, including 63,000 girls and young women! Now, more than ever, this support is crucial as young people globally experience increased hardship because of the pandemic.

EMpower’s Director of Adolescent Girls and Gender Initiatives, Aissatou Bah, provided more details about the impact that COVID-19 has had on young people, including the increased joblessness, food insecurity, and violence that many youth are experiencing. According to UNESCO, the disruption of education due to the pandemic will have long-lasting impacts on young people globally as 2 out of 3 youth are predicted to not return to school. Aissatou highlighted the gendered dimensions of the pandemic, noting that public health outbreaks disproportionately affect girls and women and threaten to reverse the progress that has been made with regards to mobility, education, livelihoods, and rights. Despite these difficult circumstances, Aissatou emphasized how EMpower’s grantee partners are pivoting to address these issues with innovative solutions.

Theodoros Chronopoulos, EMpower’s Senior Program Officer for Africa and Russia, highlighted the challenges that EMpower’s partner organizations in Africa have identified. The first case of COVID-19 in South Africa was announced on March 5th, and since then South Africa has had nearly 700,000 cases and more than 16,000 deaths. Sharing more details about the impact of the pandemic on South African youth, Aviwe Funani, Program Manager of Waves for Change (W4C), gave insight into the innovative responses from organizations to ensure young people are not left behind.

Waves for Change uses surfing to support marginalized youth to build skills that address trauma, help them build resilience and support them in their educational and professional development. Aviwe’s commitment to youth and mental health shone through as she explained the organization's goal to destigmatize mental health services in low-resource communities and build a South Africa where young people have access to high-quality healthcare. She detailed the programs that Waves for Change has and shared success stories of how following the program, participants are better able to respond to trauma and cope with difficult emotions. Currently, Waves for Change is working on a research study supported by EMpower to develop more tools for children to cope with trauma. In closing the webinar, Aviwe provided an optimistic perspective on the impact of supporting organizations like Waves for Change and the ripple effect of positive change that our partners bring about in their communities.

Learn more about EMpower’s partnership with Waves For Change here.

Watch the webinar ‘A Resilient Future: How COVID-19 is Impacting Young People’s Mental Health in South Africa’ below!

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