By Nelly Umoren
The devastating effect of Coronavirus pandemic on women and girls across the globe is enormous in every sphere of life- health, economy, security and social protection.
Globally, most women work in the informal economy sector, earning less, saving less, but working hard and at greater risk of falling sick and into abject poverty despite their struggles. As markets fall and businesses close, most of them are out of job and businesses. Women’s jobs have disappeared leaving them hopeless with huge chunks of responsibility.
“At the same time as they are losing paid employment, folding market and businesses, women’s unpaid care work has increased as a result of school closures, husbands out of jobs and businesses; the increased needs of care and attention lies on women even looking after older relatives. These current states are putting women’s health at a high risk because a lot runs through their minds, thinking of how to cater for the entire family. These are always the challenges women face in combining these roles which always defeat women’s rights and deny women’s opportunities.”
Forced lockdowns and movement restrictions also mean that women’s suffering has doubled in terms of the risk of gender-based violence especially now that everyone is being trapped at home with their abusers. Now that social support services are disrupted or inaccessible, most women are at risk- risk of accessing health care services managing their ill health, that of the children, the elderly and others in the family. No more access to protection or safe sex;access to life-saving sexual and reproductive health care is disrupted. They are vulnerable to abuses both physical and psychological trauma.
According to the UN secretary-general, COVID-19 is not only a challenge to global health systems, but also a test of our human spirit, and a better world must emerge following the pandemic.
“Gender equality and women’s rights are essential to getting through this pandemic together, to recovering faster, and to building a better future for everyone”, he said.
The UN chief has urged governments to put women and girls at the center of their recovery efforts, including by making them leaders and equally involved in decision-making.
“Measures to protect and stimulate the economy from cash transfers to credits and loans, must be targeted at women”, he stressed, adding that, “unpaid care work must be recognized and valued as a vital contribution to the economy”. A lot of the works women do at home are unpaid for.
‘Zero tolerance for domestic violence’
I wonder how issues of domestic violence will be addressed in the rural communities, Who do the abused report to and how do they seek redress, with the lockdown system which is controlled by our insecure security agencies taking advantage of the situation to brutalize citizen and violate human rights of citizens in the name of security and keeping to the role of stay at home exercised alias lucked down by government to avoid spread of COVID19.
The aftermath of COVID19 on violence against women and girls will be enormous and the risk at which women are going to be impacted will be very high. How do we speak to abusers? How do we stop abused? How do we render help to victims with this current state of restriction of movement? It is pathetic looking at the pains, fears and hurts women and girls will go through at a time like this without a counselor and a confident.
Meanwhile, ambassadors from 124 UN Member States and Observers have answered the Secretary-General’s recent call to address the surge in domestic violence in the pandemic.These countries have committed to making prevention and redress of gender-based violence a key part of their national response plans.
“More than ever, there needs to be zero tolerance for domestic violence”, they wrote in a letter to the UN chief.They added that women are “not just victims” in the crisis but also play a major role in the COVID-19 response.
What about us here in the remote countries of Africa and our nation, Nigeria? Where are the modalities by which we are governed? No local or state responses talk less, national? If the bail-out funds get to states and local governments but fails to get to the communities and individual donations to the federal government to help reduce the effect are only heard of and not seen, how will the government think of responding to gender based violence when a basic need like food is not available in homes and not shared accordingly?
The issue of domestic violence may come as a result of scare resources at home, struggle for survival arising from anguish over inadequate food to sustain the family. Lack of water, light and denial of freedom can equally lead to violence.
High rate of criminality is already being experienced in some parts of the country like Lagos; there are cries of hunger and anger and expectedly, suicide –mental health issues, will be high.
“Nearly 70 per cent of frontline health and social workers are women. Women also shoulder a disproportionate share of unpaid care work and they are critical actors in the sustainable development of all countries”. It is therefore pertinent that women are included in all response and recovery decisions considering their roles and responsibilities so that the aftermath of COVID19 will be reduced on them.
This will answer to the UN Sec-General’s call that, “women’s leadership and contributions must be at the heart of Coronavirus resilience and recovery efforts”.