COVID-19 and the Role of the State in Protecting Women.

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 vast and significant impact in the economic, political, social and cultural aspects all over the world.

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic 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 institutions aiming at prevention of the spread of the virus. While the significant population of the world has responded well to measures like staying home, some essential workers are left with no option but to serve their communities. Majority of these essential workers are women; in the US alone women makes two-thirds of the frontline workers.

The pandemic has magnified gendered inequalities. Women account for the majority of health care workforce, which means they are likely to be more exposed to the virus. 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 virus is not the only risk that women face in the midst of pandemic.

The UN Secretary General in his brief of the Impact of COVID-19 on women warns that the coronavirus 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 its impact.

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 economic, political, social, and cultural aspects all over the world.

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have 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 institutions aiming at prevention of the spread of the virus. While the significant population of the world has responded well to measures like staying home, some essential workers are left with no option but to serve their communities. The majority of these essential workers are women; in the US alone women make two-thirds of the frontline workers.

The pandemic has magnified gendered inequalities. Women account for the majority of the health care workforce, which means they are likely to be more exposed to the virus. 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 virus is not the only risk that women face in the midst of the pandemic.

The UN Secretary-General in his brief of the Impact of COVID-19 on women warns that the coronavirus 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 its impact.

While 740 million women globally work in the 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 their ability to fend for their families, especially in the case of 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 on women. The UN can offer support through designs of fiscal stimulus programs that are well-targeted, but countries should be ready to enhance national social protection to help the most affected groups such as girls and women. Nations should also put other measures in place that reduce the economic burden, access to quality health services for women as well as protection against Domestic and Gender-Based Violence

By Consolata Chikoti

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