A United Nations policy brief just published outlines the unique vulnerability of women across the globe to this COVID-19 pandemic.
UN Policy Brief – Summary of Findings
- The pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities, exposing vulnerabilities in social, political and economic systems which are in turn amplifying the impacts of the pandemic.
- Compounded economic impacts are felt especially by women and girls who are generally earning less, saving less, and holding insecure jobs or living close to poverty.
- Unpaid care work has increased, with children out-of-school, heightened care needs of older persons, and overwhelmed health services.
- As the COVID-19 pandemic deepens economic and social stress coupled with restricted movement and social isolation measures, gender-based violence is increasing exponentially.
Dr. Helen Pankhurst, an advisor for Care International, points out that their study of 10,000 women across 40 countries clearly illustrates the substantial impact the coronavirus is having on women and girls…and the results are appalling in their predictability.
- Globally, more women work in the informal sector—domestic workers, street vendors and other food services, the grey economy that doesn’t provide pensions, sick leave, or health insurance.
- Care International found that 55 percent of the women surveyed had lost income versus 34 percent of men.
- COVID-19 has caused people to go hungry, and women bear the brunt of that, too, with 41 percent of women and 30 percent of men reporting they are hungry.
- Even mental health is divided along gender lines; Cares International study found 27 percent of women report COVID-19 having a significant impact on their psychological health, while only 10 percent of men responded similarly.
Women in the U.S.
The social worker who alerted us to these findings went on to talk about US women in particular.
“The U.S. has no paid parental leave for parents to take during this difficult time. We have no universal childcare system on which parents can rely. We have no federal minimum standard for vacation and sick days, unlike every other Western industrialized country,” she says. “Parents seem angry in a way that I haven’t seen them in the past.”
As a starting point, the UN recommends the following change in vision before we start designing practical steps to alleviate the economic and social stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- ENSURE WOMEN’S EQUAL REPRESENTATION IN ALL COVID-19 RESPONSE PLANNING AND DECISION-MAKING.
- DRIVE TRANSFORMATIVE CHANGE FOR EQUALITY BY ADDRESSING THE CARE ECONOMY, PAID AND UNPAID.
- TARGET WOMEN AND GIRLS IN ALL EFFORTS TO ADDRESS THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC IMPACT OF COVID-19.
“The socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbated for women and girls simply by virtue of their sex.”
“This is not just about rectifying long-standing inequalities but also about building a more just and resilient world. It is in the interests of not only women and girls but also boys and men. Women will be the hardest hit by this pandemic, but they will also be the backbone of recovery in communities. Every policy response that recognizes this will be the more impactful for it. (UN Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on Women, 9 April 2020)
“Every cloud has a silver lining” (my Mother) - Even this pandemic.