From isolation to physical distancing to working from home, the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the lives of millions of people worldwide.
“[While COVID-19 is] a physical health crisis, it has the seeds of a major mental health crisis as well, if action is not taken. Good mental health is critical to the functioning of society at the best of times,” states the United Nations. “Many people are distressed due to the immediate health impacts of the virus and the consequences of physical isolation. Many are afraid of infection, dying, and losing family members. Individuals have been physically distanced from loved ones and peers. Millions of people are facing economic turmoil having lost or being at risk of losing their income and livelihoods. Frequent misinformation and rumours about the virus and deep uncertainty about the future are common sources of distress. A long-term upsurge in the number and severity of mental health problems is likely.”
Members of Digital Opportunity Trust’s #DOTYouth Street Team are taking action.
The #DOTYouth Street Team was launched in April 2020 to support youth-led COVID-19 initiatives in Africa and the Middle East.
Over the previous months, 50 youth have been supported by DOT to grow their community-based response initiatives, connect with partners, participate in online courses that strengthen their ideas, and build strong peer relationships and support networks.
We’re immensely proud of the work #DOTYouth are doing in their communities to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
This week we’re sharing the powerful stories of six #DOTYouth Street Team members who are taking action for mental health in the wake of COVID-19.
Here are six #DOTYouth Street Team members who are taking action for mental health in the wake of COVID-19:
Venoranda Rebecca Kuboks is the founder of Youth Changers Kenya, a community based organization that promotes sexual and reproductive health among youth and offers mentorship and leadership programs for women and girls in rural settlements.
Through her program, Venoranda is providing online psychological support to adolescent girls and women in Kenya to increase awareness about gender-based violence and provide mental health supports to girls and women at risk of violence. Gender-based violence sees a significant statistical increase during any crisis. Venoranda has so far provided psychosocial support to over 30 girls, and hopes to support 100 more in her community.
Catherine Nyamiru Kamau leads Vijana Tustawi, an organization that provides mental health and psychosocial well being support to youth.
Through her initiative, Catherine is supporting 500 women and girls in Kenya who are dealing with high stress levels, anxiety and panic as a result of strict lockdown and quarantine measures, job loss, and isolation by providing online content on mental health and wellness delivered by accredited psychologists.
Through digital networks both Veronranda and Catherine are finding ways to counsel and support women and girls through these hard and unprecedented times.
Isabella Engede is the founder of Tabasamu Dada in Nairobi, Kenya. She is supporting young girls and teenage mothers by sharing informative materials on personal, sexual and mental health and is working closely with a top pharmacist in Nairobi to obtain current and accurate information on COVID-19 to share back with members of her community.
During Kenya’s strict lockdown measures, Isabella is also educating community members on mental health and distributing sanitary towels and pads to young women and girls living in rural areas who may not be able to access these essential supplies at this time.
Siti Ngwali is a gender and human rights activist based in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Siti has launched an online community outreach initiative for young women and girls to train them on crisis management and response, mental health and wellness, prevention of gender based violence, and civic engagement.
Siti is developing informative videos, graphics and messages on these topics, which she shares on social media. She has trained over 18 young Tanzanian women to distribute essential information about gender based violence and civic engagement for women; her team is now working to ensure even more women have access to essential information and resources.
In Tanzania, women face significant obstacles to meaningful civic participation, which means their voices are often unheard in national decisions about crisis management, mental health and wellness, and gender based violence. Through her initiative, Siti is making sure that young women have a voice in Tanzania, for a resilient and healthy society.
Ali Kaviri is the founder of Ugandan youth-led organization, the Youth Equality Centre (YEC).
Ali is dedicated to elevating young people’s voices. Through YEC, he has launched an online tool that provides up-to-date and accurate COVID-19 related information to youth in his community, and is running a radio talk show where he broadcasts about mental health and coping mechanisms for youth living through the pandemic. Participating in these radio sessions are students, counsellors, journalists, digital and medical experts who share their knowledge and stories, in efforts to promote social well being and limit the spread of the virus.
Shila Salim is a member of the Youth Sustainable Development Kilifi Chapter in Kenya, a youth-led organization which creates a safe, empowering and enabling environment for sustainable development.
Shila has launched a social media campaign called #VolunteerAgainstCovid19 to mobilize the Kilifi community in COVID-19 response efforts, as well as to share prevention tips and mental health and resilience supports during this pandemic.
Shila develops material such as posters, infographics, social media posts as well as videos to illustrate important COVID-19 messages. Her campaign has already reached 15,000 people in Kilifi and her goal is to reach 100,000 more community members.