Adolescent Girls’ Vulnerabilities and Transitions in the Context of COVID-19

The study intends to shed light on women’s access to justice in Bangladesh through an analysis of adolescent girls’ life transitions in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and elicit responses on the topic. The research utilizes a combination of both quantitative and qualitative research methods.

Researchers: Maheen Sultan; Lopita Huq; Khandaker Wahedur Rahman; Kabita Chowdhury; Md. Raied Arman; Iffat Jahan Antara; Marjan Hossain; Nuha Annoor Pabony; Maliha Noshin Khan

Partners: The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)

Timeline: August–December 2021

Status: Completed

Method: Mixed methods

Contact: Maheen Sultan




The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in immense losses of lives, taking a toll on people’s health, disrupting markets and livelihoods, and causing profound reverberations in homes. In Bangladesh, as in many other countries, reduced incomes have caused economic strains that are compelling families to adopt various coping strategies. One of the main strategies adopted is the reduction and reallocation of resources available to the household. Depending on how much the pandemic has affected their livelihoods and how resilient they are, families may be compelled to make hard choices between keeping their children in school, getting them married, and putting them to work. A closer look into adolescent life transitions during the pandemic is essential because the decisions about life trajectories of adolescents (both girls and boys) taken by the family, as part of their livelihoods strategy, may be disrupted in ways that have negative consequences for them. 


The study intends to shed light and elicit lessons on women’s access to justice in Bangladesh through an analysis of adolescent girls’ life transitions in the context of COVID-19 pandemic. This involves understanding adolescents’ vulnerability to risks, particularly violence, through the analysis of household decision-making strategies that determine the trajectories of their lives; adolescent girls’ own assessment of life transitions and vulnerabilities; and adolescents’ knowledge of and access to support that can help identify, negotiate, and seek recourse for the vulnerabilities and risks they face in life. The additional focus on a smaller component of adolescent boys will provide a meaningful context and comparison to the assessment of adolescent girls’ vulnerabilities and address adolescent vulnerabilities in Bangladesh as a whole.


The study uses both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Female adolescents who are 12 to 18 years old are the main focus of this study. Interviews of 2,400 households are conducted in three districts (Cumilla, Narail, and Gaibandha) that have at least one adolescent member of this age group. The qualitative sample will be drawn from the villages chosen under this survey. One round of 36 interviews of adolescents will be conducted in the three districts. Six Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) will be conducted—one in each community—with parents to discuss various scenarios and options for adolescent girls in that area. Fifteen Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) will be conducted as part of the qualitative study.

Findings and Recommendations

Regarding the risks and vulnerabilities faced by adolescent girls due to the COVID-19 pandemic, security considerations are more important than poverty for early marriage and withdrawal from school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Perceived reputational risks are an additional significant consideration for girls. Decisions to put boys in work are driven by economic considerations as well as security considerations. Early marriage and migration for work by underage boys led to increased risks for reproductive health complications and domestic violence. Cyberbullying, harassment, and cybercrimes were a major concern for adolescents. Family and friends were the main sources of support, but there was only partial support for economic needs, educational support was lacking, and lack of privacy and fear of being identified were constraints to adolescents complaining to outsiders.

Among the three recommendations, recommendation one and two address vulnerabilities to make adolescent lives safe and secure, such as increasing opportunities for education, expanding safe work opportunities, preventing early marriage, strengthening the role of school teachers and Child Marriage Prevention Committees, recognising the mental health needs of adolescents, providing support, and strengthening responsive and adolescent-friendly support mechanisms. Recommendation three is to strengthen governance and ensure accountability of government mechanisms and personnel, including holding those with a formal role in child marriage to account, ensuring the safety and security of girls and boys, and strengthening digitalisation of birth, marriage, and death registration to eliminate manipulation and ensure data is used. Data gaps must be addressed.