As part of activities to mark this year’s International Women’s day LVCT Health joined other key speakers in sharing their experience on the impact of COVID-19 to women. The Gendered Impact of COVID-19 is part of a program series that focuses on the impact of COVID-19 on the gender imbalances in leadership on the pandemic’s management, gender-based violence, and women’s economic participation.
The timely virtual meeting, was attended by the Right Hon. Helen Clark, Co-Chair, the Independent Panel, Magda Robalo, Women in Global Health Advisor, High Commissioner for COVID-19, Guinea Bissau, Anne Ngunjiri, Senior Advisor with LVCT Health Kenya, Gender & Covid-19 Project, and Abi Adams-Prassl, Associate Professor in Economics, the University of Oxford among other key speakers.
The meeting’s main agenda was to analyze the impact of COVID-19 on women and discuss strategies to cope with future pandemics. The COVID-19 has affected people’s lives, including their daily livelihood, health, gender, and reproductive services. However, young girls and women are at a higher risk of missing out on their sexual and reproductive services. “More than a third of the countries surveyed by WHO were affected by the pandemic had their sexual and reproductive services including family planning, safe abortion, antenatal care, post-natal care, and childbirth disrupted by the effects of COVID-19, which puts the lives of girls and women at risk,” Said Hellen Clark.
Besides their health, young girls had a higher risk of not returning to school after the pandemic. Clark noted that some young girls may be forced into early marriages instead of completing their education. Some are exposed to sexual and gender-based violence with the enforcement of the curfews and lockdowns.
The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated high levels of gender inequality. More women are losing their jobs since the sectors in which they are most numerous, like hospitality and the retail trade, have suffered. Women make up 70% of the global health workforce, but they have been clustered in the lower-paying jobs. Hence they have not received equal representation on national and international leadership platforms. This aspect has reduced their women’s talent expertise in decision-making during the pandemic.
In celebrating international women’s day, women leaders’ role during the pandemic proves that little has been done to include women in positions of influence regionally and globally, noted Magda Robalo. She also noted that most health workers on the frontline fighting the pandemic are mostly female (approximately 20%) but led by men; hence there is little done to enforce policies that empower women.
The LVCT-Health has been proactive and on the frontline in fighting gender-based violence through offering support programs to adolescents, young girls, and women during the pandemic. Ann Ngunjiri noted that the number of home-based sexual and gender-based violence rose during the pandemic and women were mostly affected. Many schools closed, many young adolescent girls were at risk burdened with domestic care, with some subjected to female genital mutilation and defilement. However, LVCT- Health linked survivors with accurate services locally and offered training to community health workers and mentors who were on the frontline to support people in the community with accurate information and places to get help. “We need to invest more in the community structures and digital mapping to help young girls and women get the necessary help during this period, “added Ngunjiri.
On the contrary, Dr. Derrick Griffins argued that both the men and women faced equal measures of the pandemic’s negative effects, highlighting the higher mortality rate in men due to COVID-19. Griffins explained how men’s issues had been overlooked and side-lined over time, with many making assumptions by blaming their behavioral nature as the cause of gender inequality and violence.
Overall, the Independent Panel and the keynote speakers proposed measures that should be used to protect women and young girls as the key priority persons affected through initiating effective, responsive policies that are gender-inclusive, allowing gender inclusivity in the local and top leadership scales, and strengthening and capacity building the community structures to respond and support a balanced gender when handling future pandemics. Find the Link to the video https://www.pscp.tv/w/1rmxPzqlALjGN
By Rebecca Musanga