The impacts of crises are never gender-neutral and COVID-19 is no exception. The pandemic has resulted in increased rates
of violence against women and has exacerbated challenges in accessing justice. Women are losing their livelihoods
faster than men.
Twenty-five years ago, the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing set a path-breaking agenda for women’s rights. As a result of the two-week gathering with more than 30,000 activists, representatives from 189 nations unanimously adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
According to a 2016 Guttmacher Institute study
, 60% of girls ages 15-19 in developing countries who want to avoid pregnancy do not have access to modern contraceptive methods. Women Deliver Young Leaders Kizanne James
and Khadija Sinanan
dive deeper into stigma around contraceptive use in their home country of Trinidad and Tobago as part of their projects as World Contraception Day Ambassadors
Sixteen-year-old Suhana Khan had just completed her grade 10 exams in March, when India imposed a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown. Since then, she has been spending her mornings and evenings doing household chores, from cooking and cleaning to fetching drinking water from the tube well.
While men are more likely to die from COVID-19, women are facing the full blow of the socio-economic fallout from the ongoing pandemic as well as seeing a reversal in equality gains made over the last two decades, says an all-women panel of international thought leaders, who met virtually during a discussion convened by IPS.
Pregnant with her second child, 30-year-old Ndiabou Niang was enduring pelvic pain, but couldn’t afford to access prenatal care in Diabe Salla, a village on the outskirts of the small town of Thilogne in north-east Senegal. Her husband was unemployed and her earnings of under CFAF 10,000 (17 USD) from selling seasonal fruits in the local market were insufficient to make ends meet.
Omnia Nabil*, a Sudanese doctor, who worked in one of the largest hospitals in Khartoum, the country’s capital, was devastated to witness the deaths of 50 young women who had unsafe abortions during a space of just three months.
The impact of COVID-19 lockdowns falls heavily on the shoulders of women even in the global north. Women take the brunt of housework and caretaking duties, homes schooling, working from home and perhaps looking after elderly parents, says Cherie Blair.
Even before Covid-19, the world was facing a care crisis. The plight of often neglected, under-appreciated, under-protected and poorly equipped ‘frontline’ health personnel working to contain the pandemic has drawn attention to the tip of the care crisis iceberg.
Health systems around the world are prioritising health care services and equipment to treat people diagnosed with Covid-19, which means that many procedures deemed to be elective and non-essential are being suspended or simply not provided. Abortion, for instance, has been categorised
as a non-essential health service by some States, while others have removed certain restrictions to accessing abortion.
It was only when 17-year-old Eva Muigai was in her final trimester that her family discovered she was pregnant. Muigai, a form three student who lives with her family in Gachie, Central Kenya, had spent her pregnancy wearing tight bodysuits and loose-fitting clothes that hid her growing baby bump.
As the COVID-19 mayhem carries on in most countries, the role of mothers, daughters, and female caregivers have been affected the most. Besides looking after the household and home schooling children, they are also working on the front lines, actively or passively caring for their respective communities.
Sexual and reproductive health and pandemics might seem to be unrelated topics, but large and dense populations are drivers of the high velocity transmission of COVID-19, and there are lessons to be learned for the future.
A little over half of women across the globe are able to freely make choices about their sexual and reproductive health, according to a latest report based on data from 57 countries.
However, as much of the world has gone into lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, with countries implementing social distancing and restricting the free movement of people, experts are concerned that even this small gain in sexual and reproductive health may suffer negatively.
“I come from Baglung District, a part of Dhawalagiri Zone in Nepal. My house overlooks the river. Do you know, our district is known for the suspension bridges?”, her eyes glimmer for a fraction of a second and then she breathes a heavy sigh! Her right hand is still wrapped in a scarf, while with the other she pats her 17-month-old. “If I ever get a chance I will take you to my village, we have a lot of medicinal plants.” She pauses while tears roll down as she continues our Facetime session. “I was 16 when I had my first child and I was 17 when my arm was broken by my mother-in-law.”
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is still widely practised in the African country of Djibouti. Despite efforts by the government and development agencies to curb this practice, culture, tradition and religion continue to slow down progress.
For Dr Edna Adan Ismail maternal health and midwifery is deeply personal. In an interview with Women Deliver Young Leader Musu Bakoto Sawo
, Ismail recalls her mother’s devasting experiences which impacted on her own life’s choices.
The human factor is intimately involved in the origin, spread, and mitigation of the Coronavirus and we cannot afford to ignore that our future existence depends on compassion and cooperation. Response matters!
When you flip through grade one Bangla school textbooks there is very little written about the progress women have made in Bangladesh since the Beijing Conference for Women in 1995.