The Preventive Measures to Control the Pandemic Worsen Conditions for Communities Participating in Romomatter
By Belen Soto-Ponce, Member of the Quality Assurance Advisory Committee, University of Seville
The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed lives, just as it has changed the reality for the Romomatter Project. But new challenges must be confronted through new and innovative activities and approaches. At Romomatter we are discovering new opportunities for our work, and we have recommitted to adapting our project to the current reality, given our resources and possibilities.
Romomatter conducts risk assessment and monitoring to support fieldwork during COVID-19.
Together with the project coordination team, the Quality Assurance Advisory Committee (QAAC) developed a questionnaire to monitor risks and explore new opportunities related to Romomatter’s goals and implementation for each area of fieldwork. The goal was to gain information about the COVID-19 situation and its impact on the project, the activities partners had completed during the pandemic, and their proposals to adapt the project to new circumstances.
After thorough revision of the resulting information by the QAAC members, we produced a final version of the questionnaire that was answered by the research partner and fieldwork partner for each fieldwork site. Six questionnaires were gathered in total.
Socioeconomics and education are among the most affected areas in the project fieldwork sites.
The completed questionnaires reveal that all of the sites face similar problems: limited access to public and social services, limited access to online education, and lack of income. Some of the descriptions of issues faced by the Romomatter project communities collect at the sites include:
- Alicante: Social services are running at minimum or are collapsed. Families don’t have access to basic technology and schools are closed, widening the digital divide.
- Cordoba: There hasn’t been any registered case of coronavirus in the fieldwork area, however, the situation of families has worsened. Families depend on food aid and economic aid to survive, the waiting period to receive them is long and aids are insufficient. Schools and health centers have closed.
- Bucharest: People have lots jobs, and schools are closed until September. Families are confined to overcrowded houses with no access to running water.
- Straldzha: With 2,500 reported cases of coronavirus, the state of emergency has finished, with consequences in terms of unemployment. Forty percent of families have a member who lost a job. There is limited access to social and healthcare, online education and economic support from public services.
Information collected shows the significance of the project in the lives of the girls – and the need to restart activities.
Contact between Romomatter partners and location coalitions at fieldwork sites has been frozen, except for in Bucharest. However, community partners in Alicante, Cordoba and Straldzha had been in touch with the local coalition to carry out other initiatives. Moreover, all partners had been in permanent contact with the facilitators in their fieldwork area. Most facilitators were staying in touch with families, waiting for instructions to restart the work with Romomatter.
Collecting the questionnaires helped us understand the importance of Romomatter’s activities with girls. School had been the only thing that allowed them to escape their gender-based traditional roles and acknowledge other possibilities for their lives, and now they didn’t have that. Therefore, we realized that restarting Romomatter as soon as possible was a priority.
For that, the adaptation team was created and a fourth project meeting organized to inform retaking the work of the project under new circumstances. Partners from each fieldwork site are starting implementation of the project, and although the speed will differ from what was originally planned, and by site, the goals remain the same.