Gender inequality can come into even starker focus in the context of health emergencies.
David Evans, of The Centre for Global Development, recently published an article pointing out the devastating and long lasting effects that COVID-19 will likely have on women and girls in low- and middle-income countries.
Yes, I had considered the horrific affects the disease could have in poorer countries, but I had not given a thought to the gender inequality issue until now!
Here is what David Evans points out.
School closures are likely to have a huge impact on women, who in many societies take principal responsibility for children. Women’s participation in work outside the home is likely to fall.
Health resources normally dedicated to reproductive health go towards emergency response. This can lead to higher maternal mortality for years to come.
When women have less decision-making power than men, either in households or in government, then women’s needs during an epidemic are less likely to be met.
Intimate partner violence rises in the wake of emergencies. Travel restrictions are the cause.
The burden of care usually falls on women—not just for children in the face of school closures, but also for extended family members. As family members fall ill, women are more likely to provide care for them. Women are also more likely to be burdened with household tasks, which increase with more people staying at home during a quarantine.
Here in North America, I have heard people complaining about not being able to work out at the gym, or celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in a bar with friends. Seriously?
The impact of this pandemic will be felt for years to come particularly by women and girls in in low- and middle-income countries.
Now more than ever it is critical that we keep women’s rights and needs front and center in our responses. A first step in doing that is making sure that women are a central part of the teams designing those responses.