The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to widen inequalities and hamper the SDG commitments of gender equality and poverty reduction. In Africa, it is feared that the social consequences of the pandemic will undo the progress in gender equality achieved over the last two decades. Through in-depth qualitative telephone interviews with 37 adolescent girls in Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone this paper sheds light on the economic consequences of the pandemic on girls. Adolescent girls' experience of the pandemic is strongly mediated by their household configuration, resources and geographical context. Our data identifies three groups: i) sheltered from the economic impact of the pandemic, ii) coping or adjusting, and iii) severely affected. We also identify a fourth group of girls, found only in Burkina Faso, whose lives have been affected by conflict and who perceive the impact of the pandemic to be minor compared to enduring violence and trauma. Our analysis shows the unequal impact of COVID-19 and the measures implemented to contain it is likely to increase economic inequality, particularly in areas with longer-lasting restrictions, as coping mechanisms erode over time. Furthermore, the pandemic is likely to accelerate marriages and the end of schooling thus increasing gender inequality. Such effects are also mediated by resources girls have access to. We argue that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) ideals requires innovative, appropriate and sustainable solutions with the combined effort of governments and the development community that respond to the lived experiences of adolescent girls. Finally, necessary attention to the consequences of the pandemic should not detract from addressing ongoing issues affecting adolescent girls, including poverty and conflict.


    © 2023 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/bync-nd/4.0/).

    Cite as

    Lanau, A., Grieve, T., Tengbeh, A., Wayack-Pambé, M. & Enria, L. 2023, '“Since the market is closed, there is no more money, there is nothing we can do”: Voices of adolescent girls in Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone on poverty and COVID-19', Children and Youth Services Review, 155, article no: 107232. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2023.107232

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    Last updated: 07 November 2023
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