30th January 2020 marked the day which brought the whole world at a greater tension when the WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak as Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Since then there had been several events occurring which had a vast and significant impact on the world economies, politics, social and cultural aspects all over the world.
The impacts of COVID-19 has hit people, countries, and institutions differently and brought paradigm shifts in terms of the measures and policies that have been put forward by governments and other institution aiming at prevention of the spread of the disease. While the significant population of the world has responded well to these measures like staying home, some essential workers are left with no option but to serve their communities and somehow expose themselves to the disease. The majority of these essential workers are women, in the US alone women make 2/3 of the front-line workers.
Pandemics have a way of magnifying the inequalities in many ways including Gender. Women account for the majority of health care workforce which means they are more exposed to the disease, at the same time, less attention is usually paid to their health; while areas of family planning and maternal care are typically the first to be cut during an economic downturn. However, exposure to the disease is not the only risk that faces women in the midst of the pandemic. The UN Secretary-General in his brief of the Impact of COVID-19 on women warns that the COVID-19 Pandemic risks pushing back even the limited gains made in the past decades. He asserts that the Pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities, exposing vulnerabilities in social, political, and economic systems, which in turn amplify the impact of the pandemic.
While 740 Million women globally works in informal economy emerging evidence of the impact of COVID-19 suggests that women’s economic and productive lives will be affected disproportionately and differently from men. In many countries, the first wave of layoffs has mostly affected women in many sectors where women are over-represented like tourism, hospitality, and services sector limiting women’s ability to fend for their families especially female-headed households.
There should be deliberate efforts by the international community but most importantly that of national states to address the aggravating impact of the pandemic to women. The UN can offer support through designs of fiscal stimulus programs that are well targeted to women but countries should be ready to enhance national social protections to help the most affected group such as women and youths as well other measures that reduce the economic burden as well as ensure protection against GBV and ensure women access to quality health services.
By Consolata Chikoti.