Myths around COVID-19 have been regularly reported by the TEGAs. While TEGAs describe the symptoms easily, there are irregular reports around prevention and recovery, and some rumours around transmission.
Girls in every geography report myths regarding how to prevent or even cure COVID-19. Information around home remedies are circulating, whether it be eating high pH foods, garlic, black tea, cloves and pepper, or pink morning glory leaves. TEGAs rarely see these options as credible. Alishba from India gives an example:
“Many people say that drinking black tea, or by doing several other remedies we can save ourselves from Corona so there is also very much fake news.”
While girls are often able to distinguish myths, this is not always easy to do. Some TEGAs are worried about the ramifications of there being no cure yet, as Ononna from Bangladesh shares:
“Whenever I hear about this virus, I get scared because this virus is so strong that is still incurable…this virus is so dangerous that… if it infects anybody, that person has no chance to survive anymore.”
Sofia discusses a rumour she has heard about the COVID-19 vaccine:
“What I have heard about it from multiple people, and it’s kinda scary, is that the government is planning to microchip us during the vaccine.”
Interestingly, a key source of both reliable and unreliable information is the same: social media and in particular, WhatsApp. It seems that the use of mobile phones presents both the opportunity for access to correct information as well as the risk of quickly-spreading false information. The TEGAs acknowledge there are both pros and cons to accessing information this way, and usually look for an alternative source. As Carol in India points out:
“.. sometimes video and audio comes on WhatsApp groups about COVID- 19 and they often have the wrong information like COVID- 19 is airborne.”
Social media is just one way TEGAs get information via the internet. There are few consistent sources mentioned by TEGAs worldwide, with the most mentions going to the WHO website. Nura from Nigeria sums up the issue of being flooded with different information sources through the media. She speaks about a cure or vaccine she has heard is being developed (COVID Organics), but echoes many other TEGAs in pointing out that the media can give conflicting or confusing information:
“There have been rumours about cures here and there but there has not been one cure that has been publicly presented. The only one I have heard of is the one made from Madagascar and there has been a lot of back and forth about that. Sometimes the media just gets you confused about everything.”
In order to deal with all the information that can come from the media, some TEGAs such as Tania in Malawi speak about the importance of knowing how to navigate these channels to get to the truth:
“On the issue of technology during this period, I feel like if you do not use it properly, you may end up getting wrong the information. On social media, we hear many things about this pandemic. The pandemic was man created to destroy the Africans. The virus got out before it matured. Then it attacked the owners, thus the rumours. If you do not use the technology properly, you may get the wrong information.”
There are varying degrees of trust in the internet as a source of news and information, with trust being highest in the US. Alternative media outlets such as radio, TV and newspapers are other commonly cited sources of information in Malawi, Nigeria, India and Bangladesh. Although seen as more reliable than social media, even these media outlets are accused of portraying conflicting information – for example from different radio stations. Almost universally trusted sources of information are health workers, who as Sofia describes, are ‘on the front line’. Due to the fact that, as Merci points out, not all girls are going to be able to source information from trusted individuals such as health workers, more needs to be done to ensure girls are finding trusted information, and are ready to distinguish fact from myth.