COVIOD 19 and women
Around The World

COVID 19 pandemic : Unseen Impacts on Women

 

As the COVID 19 pandemic continues to disrupt lives around the world, most of the countries have enforced some form of lockdown or shelter-in-place to prevent the infection outbreak. Experts have predicted that COVID 19 pandemic would impact every individual in some ways or other. We’ve already witnessed its catastrophic impact on public health and the economy of several countries, especially on the vulnerable communities, i.e. front line workers and other essential workers, daily wage laborers, people with disabilities and people living with acute poverty.  

Like any other conflict or crisis, women and children are also disproportionately affected by the COVID 19 pandemic. As a result of The prolonged shutdown and loss of income, women, worldwide are experiencing food insecurity, poverty, eviction, increased burden of domestic and care work, disrupted maternity and newborn care, lack of access to contraception and menstrual hygiene products, high risks of infection during childbirth or neonatal care and domestic abuse and violence associated with confinement with abusive partners. 

Policymakers and experts around the world are urging Governments to address the COVID 19 emergency measures through a gender-focused approach.

 

Pregnancy and Childbirth

The risk is multi-fold and complex for women who are pregnant and in need of routine health services. Visiting health care facilities for maternity, neonatal care, childbirth or immunization of the newborn increases the risk of infections to women and newborn babies. Pregnant women also need access to reliable information and guidance.

Places with restricted movement or shelter-in-place orders, lack of adequate resources, poverty, food insecurity and the extreme stress of living with the crisis, affect the health of the pregnant or nursing mothers, and the newborn in a disproportionate way, exposing them to malnutrition, other infectious diseases, and depression.

For women living in remote places in low-income countries, it might be extremely challenging to find reliable transportation to reach hospitals for childbirth! Poor women in rural areas are in high-risk of compromised maternity care and might have to give birth at home, in unhygienic settings, under untrained supervision, posing a significant risk to both the mother and the new-born. 

 

Domestic and Sexual Violence

Evidence from past crises and natural disasters suggests that when families struggle with increased tensions, economic pressures, and confinement, it usually leads to increased violence against women and children. 

As quarantine and stay-at-home orders take effect around the world, there has been a sharp spike in domestic violence cases in all the countries. Lack of access to safer places, inability to physically distance themselves from the predators or having to stay confined 24 hours with abusive partners are making women and girls more susceptible to physical, emotional and sexual violence. 

Governments in all the countries failed to foresee and prepare for this surge of domestic violence associated with movement restrictions orders. A New York Times article reported how countries like Italy, Spain and the United States failed to address the need for more shelters for distressed women in the wake of the pandemic. Needless to mention, the resources for women are extremely scarce in low-income countries, especially among people living in rural areas or in acute poverty. 

The United Nations called for urgent action to combat the worldwide surge in domestic violence. “I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic,” Secretary-General António Guterres wrote on Twitter-

 

 

 

       Read: Why women can’t escape abusive relations

 

Lack of access to sexual and reproductive rights

During the ongoing public health emergencies, human and financial resources are overwhelmed managing the immediate crisis and burden on the health system because of the infection outbreak. 

Supply chains are being impacted by the shutdown, closure of international and domestic borders in some countries, negatively affecting the import and in-country availability and distribution of regular and emergency contraceptives, STD prevention medicines including HIV drugs, maternal and neonatal medicines, other essential medicines and menstrual hygiene and sanitation items. Unavailability of these essential items impacts primarily women and girls, violating their rights of sexual and reproductive health, and can have life-threatening consequences and long-term public health hazards if not addressed immediately.

 

More women in the Frontline and Community Health Care Jobs

According to the United Nations Populations Fund, globally around 70 percent of health and social service workers are women. Women make up around 85%  of nurses and midwives in the 104 countries for which data are available. Working as midwives, nurses or community health workers place women on the front lines of the infection outbreak, making them particularly vulnerable to the pandemic. More and more countries are failing to provide protective equipment to frontline workers, forcing women to face disproportionate risks and threat of infection. 

 

The Burden of Elderly care, Child care, and Domestic work

Around the world, women bear the majority of the responsibilities of childcare, domestic work and caring of older family members. Gender gaps in unpaid work amount to about one hour per day and the gaps in unpaid work are often larger in developing countries. With schools, childcare facilities and many elder care facilities closing down, Much of this additional burden is falling on women. 

 

Why so many women do not work in India?

 

Loss of income, Poverty, and Food Insecurity

Worldwide more women work in low-paying, informal sectors without any unemployment benefits, or health insurance coverage. Many migrant women work as domestic workers, sex workers or other informal care workers who lost their income during the pandemic. Women in all societies hold less wealth or assets than men. Losing economic freedom impacts their decision making power, making them more susceptible to food insecurity, poverty, starvation, and homelessness. School closures, food insecurity, and increased poverty may also increase the risks of harmful social practices against women and girls in poor communities,  including child marriage, early school leaving among girls, and property grabbing from widows.

The  economic  and social consequences  of COVID 19 pandemic will further worsen the existing inequalities  and discrimination against women and girls, especially those living  in extreme poverty. The pandemic is likely to have severe consequences on the specific achievement of SDG 5, and  both developed and developing countries will require more time to reach gender equality targets.

While ensuring economic stabilization and protecting the vulnerable communities, countries should approach a gender-based approach in the design and implementation of emergency policy responses. Governments and international organizations should also adopt a well functioning gender impact assessments,  availability to quality sex-disaggregated data, and gender indicators. 

 

 

 

Swagata Sen

A Clinical Researcher by profession, I am originally from India; now live in California with my family. I am an advocate of gender equality and women empowerment. I am also a Certified Reiki Healer and a Certified Sexual Assault Counselor and Advocate. I write about women's rights, equality and gender based issues to create awareness and to include every body in my fight against gender discrimination.

15 Comments

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    Cristina Petrini

    Thanking God I can say that despite the attentions, the fear and the anxiety I live very quietly and not in panic. By now the pandemic has passed …

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    Jessica Collazo

    This is very overwhelming for us women because we are suffering a lot with the loss of jobs and sometimes we suffer a lot trying to cope with more responsibilities inside our home. I’ve heard a lot of horrible stories about sexual assaul,t landlord’s trying to score some free sex in order to replace it with rent money. Is something that is so disgusting, we have to unite and we have to protect ourselves. And if we see something, some domestic violence, or things like that,we have to speak up, we have to help each other.

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      mischievouswordsbymartaazra

      Women are surrly more affected by this then men are. Especialy when they are locked down with an abuser. It is shocking how much donestic violence has grown in my country.

      I just thank god that I have not experience any of the inpacts you discribe. I can do my job from home anytime I want and my husband is supportive and handels his part of chores with out much fuss.

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    chad

    I read that there was a surge in domestic violence due to the lock down, this is unbelievable and nothing, absolutely nothing justifies it.

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    Ana De Jesus

    It certainly is a difficult time for women, especially those who are in a toxic living environment and are unable to leave home. I have heard that domestic violence cases have risen during lockdown which both saddens and angers me. Noone should be treated like that. For anyone that is suffering, I hope that they are given the help and refuge that they need.

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    Melissa Cushing

    This is a tough time for all and not just women…although as single moms I can understand the added troubles as they are responsible for daycare, the healthcare of their kids, not sure if school is reopening or not in the fall and if it is not…. what about the kids while mom is trying to work…. and so much more, especially when all alone as a single parent. I honestly pray and reach out to God for guidance and to keep me and my family safe. It is all about faith and I know that we will get through this, everyone just needs to stay strong and positive.

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    WorldInEyes

    Well this pandemic situation has badly affected on everyone…though these are true too..Thanks for sharing such valuable information..This blog post is really very informative and interesting to know more about…

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    wanderpurposely

    It is wild how many different ways this pandemic has affected each person. I cant believe the information about women on here. it is incredible how much things have changed in a short period of time.

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    Nyxinked

    It’s been a very trying time. I would hate to be pregnant or having a baby at the moment. My partner and I are trying for a child prior to this and stopped because we’re scared of the current situation getting worse.

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    Jen Sky Walker

    This pandemic has hit many hard, but women are really getting the short end of the stick, so to speak. I work with a domestic violence group, and the numbers have been skyrocketing as quarantines have been in place and jobs have been lost.

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    Juju Holden

    The pandemic has been particularly challenging for many. I am doing what I can to support my friends, especially those who are mothers and those who are pregnant. Thank you for this!

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    Florence Olufemi-Ojo

    Another very powerful post. Thank you so much for sharing , feel very empowered by the knowledge shared. It is no doubt that women face discrimination and are at significant risk, it’s unfortunate that Covid-19 has pronoiced some of teh risks women face.

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