What Challenges can Women/Girls Face if COVID-19 is not Controlled?
The corona virus COVID-19 pandemic is the global health crisis of our time. Since its emergence late last year, the virus has spread to every continent except Antarctica. The rapid spread and devastating consequences of COVID-19 is a call for concern and that is why
the government has put in place certain measures to curb the spread of the virus such as temporal shutdown of schools, travelling band, social distancing, amongst others. The bitter truth is that COVID-19 is a “toss-up” and its rather unfortunate that “we all are in the same boat” where we all face challenges during this outbreak, but however, much emphasis shall be laid on those challenges women/girls can face if this pandemic is not controlled which shall be analyzed under; education, health, protection & shelter, economic empowerment & wellbeing, food security & nutrition
Education: Armed conflicts, force displacements, climate change induced disasters and protracted crisis have disrupted the education of 75milllion children and youths globally, and the number is growing in an unprecedented way with the spread of COVID-19. Young and adolescent girls are twice as likely to be school dropouts in this crisis situation and will face greater barriers to education and vulnerabilities such as domestic/gender based violence, child labor, forced marriages, trafficking and exploitation when out of school.
Health: Women make up the majority of health-care workers worldwide. Roughly 70% of the global health-care workforce is made up of women according to an analysis of 104 countries by the World Health Organization. Apart from being health care workers, women are overwhelmingly the primary caretakers of their families, they take care of parents, school-aged children and husband, so they try balancing a demanding work life during this pandemic with home life. So their lives are enormously impacted by worrying and asking what if they contract the virus unknowingly and have to go back home to their family members who are in the age brackets of 60 and above, or younger ones with weak immune systems, in this scenario, health workers especially females may start developing “burnout”- a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress which may lead to loss of interest in job. Still under health, during a pandemic like this, more attention is given to the outbreak and other vital departments such as Sexual and Reproductive health for pregnant women\girls are given very little or no attention which can be detrimental to both mother and fetus.
Protection and Shelter: COVID-19 crisis exacerbate age, gender and disability inequalities and place women at increased risk of Gender Base Violence (GBV) and Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) resulting in profound physical and psychological harm. IPV incidents especially may surge during this period of movement restrictions & quarantining since inadequate shelter and insufficient income can prompt girls to relocate to their partner, hence exposing them to IPV.
Economic Empowerment and Wellbeing: Women living in developmental and humanitarian settings may be employed in informal, low- wage activities that are highly prone to disruption during public health emergencies like COVID-19. Movement restrictions of goods and people have hampered women’s trading activities, consequently resources are scarce, demand is high leading to an increase in the prices, and coupled with potential loss of income due to mortality of other household earners, and COVID-19 outbreak limits migrant women work opportunities, cutting off livelihood support to them and their families.
Food Security and Nutrition: The 2014-16 West African Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak demonstrated the tremendous impact that public health emergencies can have on food systems. Movement restrictions and quarantine measures resulted in less trade of accessibility of food, thus, increase in price. Some households are now forced to use negative coping mechanism like reducing food consumption. The risk of heightened food insecurity & malnourishment during COVID-19 is particularly grave for women/girls because social norms in some context dictates that women eat “last” and “least” and so because food is now scarce, the already malnourished women are prone to many other medical conditions making their immunity weak and exposing them more to COVID-19.
- All actors should commit to proactive, early information sharing and coordination to ensure a robust global response that uses intersectional analysis to account for the need of all individuals, irrespective of ethnicity, gender, nationality and sexual orientation. Those efforts should take place with full participation of at-risk population most especially women/girls
Actors such as government can really emphasize on online learning by introducing technology based platforms for teaching, learning and research, and concerning students access to internet, the government and other institutions should collaborate with telecommunication companies to facilitate the provision of affordable and free access to internet as long as students are accessing education-related websites and information.
Health managers and health policy analyst should provide psychotherapist for their workers especially female nurses experiencing burnouts, because with such effect during COVID-19 outbreak, work becomes ineffective, posing harm and consequently death to patients due to medical errors, and the demand for more nurses at this time should be prioritize so that other domains are not neglected like Sexual and reproductive health.
In a nutshell, COVID-19 is real, and I call on every soul not just females to follow the guidelines set by WHO to curb the spread f the virus because as at the moment it has no vaccine, and the prevention starts with you, because if you are safe, others are safe, together we can, God being the overall.
By:Pearl-Noella Bessem Nku, for RuWCED COVID-19 Challenge 2020