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Director's Corner

Message from the Director

Gina Chowa, PhD, MSW

COVID-19: Challenges and Opportunities

As COVID-19 continues to disrupt our daily lives, I’ve been reminded of the reality of our work – there is no quick fix, nor does there exist a one-size fits all approach. Already, the global pandemic has disrupted economies, labor markets and educational institutions all the while disproportionately impacting the world’s most vulnerable and marginalized populations. Across the world, global responses to COVID-19 have all had one thing in common – providing nonpermanent solutions to systemic problems. Although temporary relief is needed in times of crisis, it is important to recognize that the impacts of COVID-19 will continue to have far reaching social consequences.

Young people are uniquely positioned as being at increased risk of experiencing the acute effects of COVID-19 while also being changemakers through their fight on the frontlines of the global pandemic in their communities. The severe economic and labor market impacts will likely influence the quality and quantity of jobs available to young people aged 15-24 who are already 3 times more likely to experience unemployment than adults.[1] Additionally, the closing of educational institutions is likely to disrupt learning for those who do not have access to internet, increase dropout for youth who were already experiencing challenges before COVID-19 and further complicate children and youth’s nutritional health especially for those depending on free and discounted school meals.

Notwithstanding the challenges of COVID-19, young people who usually emerge as actors of change in times of crises, have been tasked with managing the spread of COVID-19 and will be integral in the recovery of communities globally. So far, young people have developed innovative initiatives designed to further existing efforts and provide support to the pandemics at-risk populations. Continuing to partner with and build the capabilities of young people will propel this work forward, ensuring all youth have the opportunity to be successful.

At GSDI, we are exploring ways of mitigating the far reaching effects of COVID-19 by working with our partners to implement interventions that employ innovative mechanisms to provide access to services to the marginalized and vulnerable youth we work with. A coordinated effort of sharing data, best practices, and lessons learned will be instrumental to build the capacity of youth, and ensure their well-being long after the global pandemic subsides. Cross-sectoral programming will be key to address the different facets of life that affect youth and ensure that youth are an integral part of the solution. Systems change will only happen when policy development ensures that the needs of vulnerable and marginalized populations, specifically young people, are prioritized and their livelihoods protected.

Gina Chowa, PhD, MSW
Director, Global Social Development Innovations


[1] ILO, Global Employment Trends for Youth 2020, p.13,—dgreports/—dcomm/—publ/documents/publication/wcms_737648.pd