Covid-19 and its Effects on Women and Girls
Essay from Jeremiah Lucas Opira Memorial Contest 2020
Author: Rose Rorena Namaalwa
Corona Virus disease (Covid 19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered Corona Virus.
The virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Most people infected with the Covid -19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment.
Older people and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.
However, the impact of crises are never gender neutral and Covid -19 is no exception. Women and girls have been seen at the frontline of acquiring it in the following ways:
- Groups that are already disadvantaged, such as adolescent girls, experience the greatest risks and impacts when their education is interrupted. For example, many girls in Uganda who have been impregnated during this period of the pandemic are not going back to school hence their Futures have been also affected.
- Early Marriages: since children are not going to school, it has increased a burden to parents to control and take care of them hence forcing them to go in for early Marriages with hopes of getting something when these girls are sold off. In addition to that, many young girls have been promised by old men and boys to provide them with basic needs and taking care of them hence the girls being used for men’s own gains leaving the girl children suffering.
- Health services: Evidence from past epidemics indicates resources are often diverted from routine health services. This further reduces the already limited access of many girls and young women to services.
- Economic wellbeing: Economic Challenges during the outbreak pose a serious threat to young women’s work and business activities and expose them to increased risk of exploitation and abuse. Girls and young women facing severe economic shocks are more likely to take on high risk work for their economic survival.
- Gender based violence: Economic stress on families due to the outbreak can put Children and in particular girls, at a greater risk of exploitation, child labor and gender-based violence.
- School dropout: Many girls have hated going back to school because they are looking at themselves as being very old and fear to go back to school due to fear that they are going to be laughed at by their peers who have not changed at all hence dropping out of school.
Nevertheless, the above are just challenges which if worked upon, they will be no more and the following are my recommendations.
- The Covid -19 pandemic must not be used as an excuse to restrict or rollback girls and women’s access to essential sexual and reproductive health rights, which must continue to be prioritized, funded, and recognized as life saving.
- The health and well being of care workers: Responses to the outbreak must protect and support young women’s economic empowerment and recognise the additional burden of unpaid and domestic work on women and girls.
- The health and well being of care workers, the majority of them women must be a core part of the response to the outbreak.
- Government must include measures to address gender based Violence (GBV) and Child protection in Covid 19 response and recovery plans to ensure that plans are gender and age responsive and multi sectoral.
- Furthermore, the United Nations should help governments in developing countries ensure that girls do not drop out of schools due to extended school closures and protect them from early marriage.
- The Covid -19 could lead to an increased occurrence due to poverty, as impoverished families may be inclined to reduce the burden of taking of care of their young girls. Girl students and their families should be targeted with financial support packages, home visits and monitoring to guarantee their protection.
- National governments should develop information packages on eliminating stereotypes related to gender and reproductive roles, featuring images of new patterns of families spending time together and sharing workloads during the pandemic. The activities women-led NGO’s should be documented on social media platforms, highlighting their activism and engagement.
- Special funds should be allocated for media programmes that amplify the voices of women and emphasize the importance of their representation in the field of science and politics among others during the pandemic.
- Last but not least, the government should provide agricultural inputs to women in rural areas to enhance production and reduce workload through the use of appreciate technologies along the chain of agriculture production working with national governments, the organization could disseminate information on how women’s immunity and ability to fight Covid-19 should be strengthened through the adoption of health diets that include nutritious rural produce.
In a conclusive remark, it should be a role of me and you together with the entire society to offer protection to this disadvantaged group if we want to save their lives because they are at the frontline of acquiring the disease.