How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted you and the people around you?
Since COVID-19 has become the new reality, there has been significant changes in all aspects of my life. I am an essential worker so work has changed for me completely, my relationships have been affected in some ways because of COVID-19 due to all parties being stressed out. Also, school has changed for me and many others since it will now be all online. COVID-19 has definitely completely changed my life. I never thought that going to a drug store to pick up menstrual pads would become a terrifying task. There is now constant fear of contracting and spreading the virus.
My stress level has been high since COVID-19 has become our new reality. My mother is older and is also a preschool teacher which has been difficult to handle. School starting back up means she will be putting herself at greater risk. The school boards have not been helpful on what sort of protocols will be taken to ease teachers' anxieties. I am an essential worker as well therefore I am constantly stressed that I could potentially pass on the virus to my family. The way I cope is just focusing on a routine and distracting myself by talking to friends, watching shows and focusing on my dog when I'm home.
How has going to school changed for you? What are some of the challenges distance learning has had for you?
I go to Langara and my classes are going to be almost completely online for fall semester. This is definitely a big change, since I have never been an online student but I got a glimpse of what it will be like since my final exams for this past spring semester had to be moved online.
I am not a good student naturally, it can be difficult for me to completely dedicate myself to an assignment. Through post-secondary education I have found ways on how I can succeed with my education. For example I would always go on campus to do all my school work because it allowed for my mindset to focus more on school since that was my surrounding. Also at my college classes are smaller and you have access to more one on one time with professors which definitely helped me. Social distance learning takes that all away since I will be forced to do the majority of school at home on my computer. I know it's going to be very difficult for me to adapt and absorb the teaching through a computer screen instead of the in person teachings I am used to.
Along with the pandemic, we have seen a lot of social change and unrest over the past few months, how has that affected you?
This pandemic has definitely given me a new perspective on a lot of different things. SInce COVID-19 has shut down our world, it has unexpectedly given a platform for minorities. Majority of people are no longer distracted with work or school for the time being therefore allowing them to pay attention to everything that is going on. This allows for movements like the Black Lives Matter movement to have a much bigger "spot light" than ever before. It forced people who had the privilege to believe that racism is not a big issue in our society to take a closer look at the ongoing racism many of us have been suffering from. It forced those with privilege to realize that this country has deep systemic racist roots that need to be uncovered and addressed. It forced those with privilege to no longer choose the side of "neutral". This wave of uncovering all the horrific past and ongoing racism, also forced those with privilege to stop believing that Trump's presidency does not affect Canadians. In my own experience this has also exposed those people who are racist to no longer hide in the shadows which was shocking and disappointing especially for those people who I didn't suspect.
Living in [a city] where the senior population is very high was scary because there was a constant fear of potentially passing the virus on to them since they are high risk. Due to this, the tensions in [my city have] spiked since the majority of the population are at high risk causing most people who live here to no longer have any sense of decency towards essential workers. On top of that there are many people living [there] who are racist. Somehow the correlation between the pandemic and the awakening of racism in this country gave the local racists here conviction to speak their minds loudly.
Having been working full time through this entire pandemic is draining enough (the constant fear of potentially spreading the virus to my family, getting the virus from customers ect.). But on top of that being exposed almost everyday to horrible people who lash out because of COVID-19 precautions, say something racist, or just lash out for the sake of lashing out this has somehow given me a new sense of strength.
This pandemic has given me a sense of strength I never knew I needed or could achieve. I now have this fire inside of me to speak out on the systematic racism society has allowed for far too long. I have an urge to continue educating people on the systematic racism this country is built on. I also no longer fear calling out those who have decided to continue to spew hatred towards people of colour.
For many minorities the sense of hopelessness has been prolific. In my own experience the peak of my hopelessness is Trump's presidency since I am half Iranian and half Mexican. This pandemic although devastating in other ways has somehow also given a new sense of hope for minorities who have been suffering for too long. The pandemic has sparked a fire in people of color who are young to fight back and I hope it doesn't go away any time soon.
What is your opinion on the positive environmental effects of COVID-19?
Personally I believe that this pandemic became a huge eye opener globally. When we were in the thick of this pandemic and most countries were forced to shut down (although it was devastating for a lot of people to have those shut downs) our Earth definitely started thriving. An interesting observation I have is that the relationship between the environment and humans is imbalanced. As we’ve continued to progress in our society with technology, populations growing, ect. the Earth has been suffering. But now with COVID-19 it’s given our society essentially a "pause button.” It gave us a preview of how the Earth flourishes when we slow down our emissions.
What do you think needs to happen to improve your (and other girls and young women’s) ability to succeed and cope with COVID-19?
Honestly I am not sure what needs to happen to improve girls and young women's ability to succeed and cope with COVID-19. I think more resources and benefits could be put in place that are specifically catered to women such as single mothers who are facing many more challenges with COVID-19 such as unemployment, and struggling with child care. Also more resources for girls that are in abusive homes or in abusive relationships, I know some girls going through this right now and COVID-19 has definitely spiked the numbers for people in domestic abusive situations.
Are you realistically able to practice proper social distancing and other precautions where you’re housed? Are there any restrictions on you in order to maintain adequate distancing?
I basically stay in the basement of my home the majority of the time to maintain some sort of social distance from my family since they are older, making them at risk for COVID-19 and I am constantly exposed to the general public because I am an essential worker. Even though we have this set up it is still difficult to sometimes follow the social distance, I am mexican and in our culture we are very keen on close physical contact with our loved ones therefore culturally it has been difficult to follow through every single day being socially distant with my family.
Is there anything you would like your government or community leaders to know?
I would like our government and community leaders to continue to make significant changes in our society such as our education systems such as the teachings of this country's history needs significant improvement. I would like community leaders and the government to create more resources for Indigenous people regarding COVID-19 since many of them face unique challenges other citizens normally wouldn't. I also hope the government starts to actually help change the living conditions on reserves for Indigenous peoples and start truly trying to make changes on how the systematic racism this country was built on. I also hope they continue to create resources for girls and young women who are struggling because of COVID-19 whether it's because they are single mothers or are in a at risk living situation all those issues need to be addressed when implementing resources to help citizens regarding COVID-19.
JFG is reaching out to teenage girls and young women in the community to hear directly from them about how COVID-19 has affected their lives.