The past few decades have seen some improvement with women's rights and gender equality: more young girls are being educated, fewer are forced into early marriages, more women hold leadership positions, and many countries have made laws to protect women's rights.
Is the pandemic going to have an impact on this progress? What larger effect will it have on women?
As families are experiencing more financial stress during these unprecedented times, women and girls are more likely to be victimized. Before the pandemic, the UN estimated that 1 in 3 women will experience abuse in their lifetime. However, with many women now possibly being trapped with their abuser(s), it is likely that this number will rise. A crisis like this, with resources directed elsewhere, limits the possibility that justice will be delivered swiftly in such cases. In order to relieve this, governments should incorporate measures to address gender-based violence as part of their recovery from COVID-19.
At a global scale, 70% of the health force is made up of women. They are more likely to be frontline health care workers such as nurses, midwives and community health workers. Due to this, women are at a much greater risk of being infected by COVID-19. In Spain and Italy, 72% and 66% of the female healthcare workers, respectively, were infected, compared to 28% and 34% of male healthcare workers respectively. Additionally, women require access to modern contraception and the provision of sexual and reproductive health services, which in many places will be falling in supply due to the virus. This can aggravate maternal mortality, increase the rates of adolescent pregnancy, as well as the rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STD's). According to the UN, it has been estimated that an additional 18 million women will lose regular access to modern contraceptives in Latin America and the Caribbean during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of us already foresee the devastating impact of this pandemic on the global economy, but how will this impact women's economic lives around the world?
In recent times, more men in specialised areas such as manufacturing and construction have lost their jobs - both of these industries are largely affected by a standard downturn. However, during COVID-19, occupations and industries with high female employment rates, such as restaurants and the hospitality industry, have been tremendously affected due to lack of customers. It is predicted that the negative impact of the pandemic will be longer-lasting for women than for men.
Across the world, women not only earn disproportionately less than men -- for example, 80 cents to the dollar in the US -- and save less, but also hold less secure jobs and are more likely to be working in the informal sector. Additionally, women have less access to social protection. Many of them are single-parent households. At a global scale, women between the ages of 25 and 34 are 25% more likely to be living in extreme poverty than men
In a recent policy brief, the UN has recommended multiple ways in which the governments can aid the recovery process of women, including cash transfer programs, new economic policies that lead to women receiving equal pay for equal work, and putting in place more social protection programs that also help those working in the informal sector.
This pandemic is going to impact everyone around the world and that includes women, the effect of it will be tremendous and is quickly reversing the limited progress of gender equality we had achieved in the world. It is important that we all know and understand the future consequences of COVID-19 on women around the globe so that we can begin taking action before it is too late to make a change.
Policy Brief: The Impact of Covid-19 on Women. (2020, April 9). Retrieved from https://www.un.org/sites/un2.un.org/files/policy_brief_on_covid_impact_on_women_9_apr_2020_updated.pdf
Women Face Rising Risk of Violence During Covid-19. (2020, July 24). Retrieved July 26, 2020, from https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/07/03/women-face-rising-risk-violence-during-covid-19