Quarantine found many young people ‘stuck’ at home in situations of domestic violence and abuse. Quarantine also meant that education and employment came to a standstill for many. The unemployment rate of young people is growing and the Europe research team found that young people will likely be among those taking on the biggest share of the economic burden generated by this crisis.
For others, quarantine was not even an option. In countries in which large chunks of the economy is mostly informal, many jobs have disappeared with dire implications for those young people and families whose livelihoods depend on daily wages. Daniel, writing from a favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, asks: is quarantine a right or a privilege?
Eric from Zimbabwe interacted with youth leaders across Africa, who reported that in many communities lockdown meant people going hungry because of their inability to work and earn an income to sustain themselves. In these contexts, as Daniel explains, the fight against COVID-19 became a fight for survival. Youth organisations have been stepping in to compensate for the inability of some governments to respond to the crisis appropriately.
The COVID-19 crisis has further evidenced structural injustice, sparking a moment of intense social mobilisation. In the United States, for example, Black people have been disproportionately affected by both COVID-19 and racist violence by state and non-state actors, undeniable signs of the depths of systemic racism. Black & Indigenous Americans are experiencing the highest death tolls from COVID-19, with Black Americans dying twice as much due to the virus compared to Whites and Asians. While social distancing measures were imposed, widespread protests as part of the Black Lives Matters movement continued, reflecting an urgency for public debate and action against long-standing racist practices of the state and white supremacists in the US. This movement and the frustrations and anger felt by young people towards systemic racism and human rights violations quickly spread around the world.
Many young activists have shared concerns that their governments are using COVID-19 as a distraction while they attempt to pass laws which further restrict civic space and persecute human rights activists. In Colombia, human rights defenders, environmental activists and indigenous leaders have become more vulnerable during the lockdown: Indepax reports 176 human rights defenders have been killed in 2020 alone. In Zimbabwe, young people have reported that lockdown measures led to tighter restrictions towards protests and demonstrations in the country.
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