Let’s face it. This year has been quite something. With the COVID-19 pandemic hot on our tails since the end of last year for some and the beginning of this year for others, everything that we knew to be normal and routine crumbled and we honestly don’t know when and if we will go back to normal.
Women all over the world have suffered greatly under the weight of the pandemic; with most of them suffering job losses, increased domestic violence, bearing the brunt of extra housework and child-rearing among other afflictions. This will only continue unless governments come together to avert the crises happening.
With no certain end in sight of the pandemic, let’s look at some of the ways in which it as affected women all over the world
Job and business losses
Millions of women make up the backbone of the informal sector all over the world. With lockdowns and movement restrictions being put in place from the get-go, women found themselves greatly disadvantaged having their livelihoods either abruptly ended or slowed down, putting further strain as more women have had to squeeze themselves even further to provide for their families, with some getting stuck in low paying and insecure jobs – some that have even put their lives at stake.
This has put a significant strain on the amount of work and effort put to lessen the gender wage gap and increase gender equality in all sectors.
Increased domestic violence
in some homes, women have unfortunately witnessed [increased] domestic abuse from their partners. This is either through disruptions in programmes to prevent violence and provide services, care and support to survivors. The second is through increased total acts of violence as lockdowns keep women inside with their abusers and as households endure stressors like economic turmoil.
Girls have also seen an increase in abuse in their homes. With some of them under the same roof with their abusers for longer periods due to closure of schools and increased lockdown periods, many girls who found safety and refuge at schools now are under ‘lock and key’ with no safe refuge.
Strain on maternal health and sexual health services
When the government announced curfew and restriction of travel, one of those greatly affected was pregnant women. with some of them experiencing labour and other pregnancy related issues at night, some found it extremely difficult to access these services thus putting them and their babies lives in danger.
The continued strain on general health care services also put pregnant and young nursing mothers seeking services like immunizations at the risk of contracting the disease; and with some hospitals/clinics overcharging for mothers to be tested for COVID-19 before being admitted, some women who couldn’t afford the services would rather risk giving birth at home without proper medical attention.
With schools closed to reduce the spread of the pandemic, child marriages are likely to be on the rise. One of the main known drivers of child marriage is poverty with the second being backward traditional practices – and at a time when millions are losing their jobs and sources of livelihood, more families are more likely to their marry off daughters in these times.
Now, more than ever, governments need to come together and set up systems that will not only cushion us from the long term consequences of the pandemic, but will also see that women and girls everywhere are protected from the gender-biased effects that COVID-19 has so far brought upon us.