It’s been almost 60 days since Senegal confirmed its first case of COVID-19, and the country is now under lockdown as the number of cases continue to rise at a worrying rate. The state of emergency is accompanied by a curfew from 8pm to 6am, schools have been closed and restrictions on people’s movement and public gatherings have been imposed.
However, it is only recently that many people have started to accept that the coronavirus is real.
“Not so long ago, most members of my community in the suburbs of Dakar, denied the existence of the disease. But whoever talks about denial is also not complying with the prevention measures or is unwilling to change their behaviour,” explains Khadyja, 23, a student in her final year at university.
With her university closed and the need to self-isolate, Khadyja, turned to Plan International’s Girls Out Loud online forum which provides a safe virtual space for girls and young women (13-24 years old) to discuss the key issues that concern them.
Over the last couple of months, COVID-19 has become the most discussed topic in the group so Khadyja decided to dedicate her daily routine to the development of awareness raising messages which she disseminates through social networks. “My main weapons: my smartphone and my voice”.
Through images and videos, Khadyja explains and shows her online community the essential protection measures needed to keep them safe. "As a girl and leader with Plan International’s Girls Get Equal campaign, it is important for me that my voice and actions encourage people to implement individual and collective prevention measures."
Khadyja is also aware of the importance of protecting girls from all forms of violence during the pandemic. “Girls should not be impacted by the health situation we are experiencing in Senegal. We can help our communities stop the spread of this virus! We can do it! We have the tools! We have the will!"
Thanks to Khadyja’s passionate determination, the impact of her social media actions across the different platforms she uses goes has gone beyond virtual. Already a respected voice in her community, she was recently invited by her district administration to join a COVID-19 action committee so that the voices of the youngest, and girls’ needs are considered during this health crisis.
Khadyja inspires and encourages her fellow sisters to be committed to their communities’ development in order to provide solutions to the problems affecting girl’s lives. In this way, she pushes decision-makers towards a positive change which allows every girl to develop to their full potential.