In her own words: Imagining a new normal

May 19, 2022
By Sirena Cordova
May 19, 2022

This story is part of a blog series called “In Her Own Words,” where you’ll read incredibly powerful stories directly from the experts with whom we work: the girls themselves.

The exposure and deepening of massive inequalities over the past two and a half years due to the COVID-19 pandemic has only fueled many girls’ desires for real change. For a new normal. Plan spoke with girls from around the world about what they imagine that new normal would and should look like.

Here are four of their visions, in their own words.

Mastula, 22, from Uganda

Mastula holds a sign that says, "I imagine a world where girls can make choices."
Mastula holds a sign that says, "I imagine a world where girls can make choices."

In Uganda during the COVID-19 pandemic, we experienced lockdowns, and this led to the closure of many businesses which were not considered essential. Unfortunately, many of our parents had to stop working. We could not access our basic needs; we did not have enough food at home or menstrual products. Our parents did not have any savings that would take us through the lockdown.

The lockdown was really challenging for girls and young women, and there was no one out there to tell us it was going to get better. We were worried we’d get the virus, and we were worried how our crowded communities would survive the pandemic. A lot of people were dying or hospitalized. We were very, very challenged and experienced a lot of fear.

If someone put me in charge to design a world after COVID-19, I can imagine a world where girls’ education is valued and prioritized. I imagine a world where communities prioritize girls’ education more than child marriage, and where cities are safer for girls and young women.

I dream of a world where young women can work, earn a living and take care of their children. Where girls and young women can make choices, thrive and lead without fear.

I think right now is the time for policymakers to do more than they did before. I call on the policymakers to make policies that are inclusive and work for everyone and the issues of girls and young women. I call on our government to ensure that post-COVID-19, all girls and children can access quality education ¾ even the girls who give birth during COVID-19.

 

Mika, 22, from Japan

Mika holds a sign that says, "I imagine a world where women and girls’ rights are systematically equal."
Mika holds a sign that says, "I imagine a world where women and girls’ rights are systematically equal."

I imagine a world where girls’ and women’s rights are systematically equal. The pandemic has affected everyone in different ways, but it also showed a gender disparity that existed before that has further widened during COVID-19.

Most people have transferred their lives online ¾ school, work and even entertainment. Personally, I had to return from studying abroad, which was a devastating decision. On returning to Japan, it was a new and confusing environment as I continued my classes online, worked part time online, and also job-hunted online.

I was privileged enough to have a secure home and a stable internet connection, as well as the necessary devices, such as a computer. However, it was a confusing and emotionally tiring experience. It was also easy to imagine the widening gap of people who have these privileges, and those who don’t.

I think the pandemic reminded me of the importance of mental health and the well-being of others. During the pandemic there was a rise in suicides, particularly amongst women and girls, as well as gender-based violence and domestic violence, because of spouses working from home and the stress of the pandemic.

If I were put in charge to create a better world, I would create a social system that benefits all equally and prioritizes the mental and physical well-being of each individual, regardless of their gender, race, sexuality, ethnicity or religion. The pandemic is a devastating experience, but it is also an opportunity to recognize the inequalities that exist, and we should all try to take advantage of this learning to create a better society.

The pandemic has taught us that coming together in solidarity to care for others, as well as our own well-being, is vital. Everyone’s voice should be heard and incorporated, and this includes women, girls and the younger generation. We should all try to take advantage of this learning to create a better society, through creating a new normal.

 

Huyen, 14, from Vietnam

Huyen holds a sign that says, "I dream of a world where girls are owners of their futures."
Huyen holds a sign that says, "I dream of a world where girls are owners of their futures."

I dream of a world where everyone treats others well, where girls are able to control their own futures, where all of my family members get vaccinated and stay healthy, where climate change ends and Earth becomes more eco-friendly.

Over the last two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant losses to humanity. In the first year after the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in Vietnam, I was forced to stay at home and combat the disease instead of attending school.

My family’s income has been seriously decreased as a result of the pandemic. We are lacking food and other necessities. My anxiety is growing, as I am concerned that I will be unable to attend school in the future.

I hope that in the future, the COVID-19 vaccine will be better managed in order to effectively combat the pandemic. As the saying goes, “a forest starts with one tree.” I imagine that everyone can help to build a better world. Only by uniting together will we create a better world.

I imagine that everyone first and foremost works together to repel COVID-19, and that everyone always stands by each other to build a better world. Girls like me will try to study hard, be polite and participate actively in school and class curricular activities.

The pandemic is helping us change old habits, and I hope that everyone will change their habits, lifestyles and consumption together in order to be healthier and improve Earth’s health.

 

Yulieth, 20, from Colombia

Yulieth holds a sign that says, "I dream of a world where girls and young women live free from violence and with better opportunities."
Yulieth holds a sign that says, "I dream of a world where girls and young women live free from violence and with better opportunities."

The truth is, I’ve often felt like giving up during the pandemic. I have to admit that everything that’s happened during the pandemic has been very difficult, not so much for me, but for society.

But I think all this has left a great message for us. Apart from teaching us to be stronger people and to fight for what we want, I think the biggest challenge the pandemic has brought us is how to live together as a family, which for many people is not normal because many of their parents have to work or are not together.

I think [the pandemic] affected me a lot, because we lost many of our family members, which is painful. Many people have been left alone without any support and without having anyone to give them a hug. It’s very difficult, because many people lost their mothers and fathers and are left on their own.

As a first step to a better world, I imagine no more violence in society, and that all of us have inner and social peace. I imagine a world full of peace, of happiness, of families full of love, surrounded by joy and many good things.

I believe that we young people have the power to build this world because we are the new generation. I would like to say many things to people in power, but the first thing I’d like to say is that they should support us young people because we have the will to move forward and fight, and to persevere.

Girls need an infinite number of things, but above all what we need is peace, security and to feel ourselves within the social environment because in many cases we see ourselves as vulnerable.

In one way or another, we must all learn to be much more tolerant, and to value what we have around us. I think COVID-19 has been a great opportunity for us to become better people.