Women, Peace & Security

Marginalised women are being left behind in the coronavirus pandemic

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An article by Brita Fernandez Schmidt, Executive Director of Women for Women International, outlines how the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting women and girls around the world, especially for those already living in conflict and fragile situations.

Key points include:

  • A Women for Women International programme participant from South Sudan told us, “COVID-19 is worse than our usual South Sudanese war because when you hear gun shots, you can run or hide. But you cannot hide from Coronavirus.”
  • Women perform 76.2% of unpaid care work globally.
    • More susceptible to contracting and transmitting COVID-19.
    • In conflict zones, where unequal gender norms are most pronounced and living spaces are overcrowded (particularly in refugee camps), the risk is even greater.
  • Conflict has destroyed healthcare systems.
    • Healthcare spending in the Democratic Republic of Congo is just $32 per capita, compared to over $3,300 per capita in the UK.
    • In many contexts, non-COVID related but vital services such as sexual and reproductive healthcare have been stopped entirely.
  • Many women living in poverty and conflict do not have access to mobile technology, live in particularly rural areas and have low literacy levels.
    • The most typical way of sharing important information – face to face – has been ground to a halt by lockdowns. As a result, they are struggling to access accurate information to keep themselves, their families and their communities safe – including essential guidance on preventative measures such as social distancing and handwashing, as well as how to identify symptoms of the disease.
  • COVID-19 is not just a health crisis, but also a humanitarian and economic one.
  • For women living in the most fragile settings, COVID-19 threatens to exacerbate existing tensions, violence and stigmatisation.
  • Importantly, women’s fundamental right to participate in processes that guide decisions around the pandemic is currently being outright denied, despite the leadership roles they are playing in the response itself.
  • We urgently need to see a global pandemic response that is coordinated, inclusive and puts gender at its core.
    • Governments and decision-makers must respond in a nuanced manner by understanding the specific realities of different women; take a holistic approach to women’s needs; actively engage women’s rights organisations; prioritise violence prevention and recovery; and proactively consider women’s economic rights, in the immediate and longer-term. The COVID-19 response must not leave women in conflict behind.

Read the full article here.