Gender inequality amongst women and girls has been and still is a very prominent issue around the world and now with a worldwide pandemic, the impact on women and girls is multi-dimensional meaning the responses have to be suitable to tackle the different areas women and girls have been affected. A gender-responsive approach requires empowering women and girls by ensuring that they know the rights, services and resources they are entitled to.
COVID-19 is hitting hard in sectors where the majority of workers are women (70% of nurses in Africa are women), meaning a gender-responsive social protection response is fundamental. Women and children are disproportionately affected by poverty the most and at a time where women’s equal rights are being relegated, equal representation in all COVID-19 response planning and decision making, should be a priority. Countries should Integrate a gender assessment in all country assessments to understand the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls, including economic impact, and how to address it effectively. In addition to this, special funds to support emergency relief for women and their business should also be implemented.
Many women work in the informal sector, which increases the negative effects of COVID-19 on them; for example, the closure of markets, borders and curfew due to their economic insecurity, supporting African women to embrace digital lifestyle and helping them grow and continue their business online should be done by providing digital entrepreneurship programs/training, expanding free internet access to increase access to online tools and education for women and girls. This will help them to be more informed and educated.
Gender-based violence has increased during this period of lockdown due to women being trapped with their abusers and services to support victims are being disrupted or made inaccessible. Designating domestic violence shelters as essential services and increasing resources to them, should be part of the response.
A pandemic amplifies all existing inequalities and only shows how important it is for every country to empower women and in order to do that, every COVID-19 response plans and every recovery package and budgeting of resources, needs to address the gender impacts of this pandemic, meaning including women and women’s organizations at the heart of the COVID-19 response, and transforming the inequities of unpaid care work into a new, inclusive care economy that works for everyone. Women need to be empowered for the economy to grow, for the world to grow and most importantly for the mere fact that they are human.