How does Covid-19 affect women and girls?

How does Covid-19 affect women and girls?

In addition to causing deep shock to societies and the economy, the Covid-19 epidemic emphasizes the society’s trust in women at home and at the forefront of the fight against the disease. At the same time, women are confronted with structural inequalities in all aspects, they are also confronted with health, economy, security and social protection inequalities.

In crisis, when resources are depleted and the capacity of organizations is limited, women and girls are faced with disproportionate effects that have extensive consequences that are exacerbated in times of conflict and emergency. Achievements that have been achieved for women are also under serious threat. The answer to the epidemic is not just to correct long-standing inequalities, but to build a flexible world for all with a focus on improving the situation for women.



Violence Against Women



Economic and social pressures, along with travel restrictions as well as stressful houses, are exacerbating gender-based violence. Prior to the epidemic, it was estimated that one of three women had experienced violence in their lifetime, a human rights violation that cost $ 1.5 trillion. Many of these women are now trapped in their homes with abusers, and there is a risk of other forms of violence, such as excessive health care, and disrupted justice systems trying to respond.

With travel restriction, all forms of violence have increased in online chat rooms and game rooms. Women – especially hard-working employees such as doctors, nurses and salespeople – are at risk of violence when moving in reclusion urban or rural areas or using public transportation system. The economic effects of this epidemic are likely to increase sexual exploitation and child marriage, and expose women and girls to fragile economic conditions and make them to become refugee. In April, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an end to all forms of violence everywhere – from homes to war zones – and focused his efforts on ending the epidemic.




Domestic violence


Currently, the data show a very worrying trend: Covid-19 has increased domestic violence and has been accompanied by financial pressures, health and safety, travel restrictions, tensions in homes and reduced peer support. In some countries, reports of domestic violence and emergency calls increased by 25 percent. These numbers include only the worst cases. Before the epidemic, less than 40 percent of women who had experienced domestic violence sought support. They are now quarantined, and travel restrictions have led to the isolation of many women who are in an environment with their abusers, such as friends, family, and others.



The shutdown of unnecessary jobs means that work can no longer bring peace to these people, and increased economic insecurity has led to the decision not to leave work anymore. Managers focusing on health, social, judicial and security services try to meet the needs of this disease. Under the call for an immediate global ceasefire in April 2020, the UN Secretary-General called for an end to all forms of violence on the battlefield and at home, and asked governments to “prevent” a sharp rise in domestic violence and make the necessary provisions in their national program to compensate for the damages.




Health staff



This epidemic is reminiscent of the basic contributions that women make at all levels. Health professionals, social volunteers, transportation and logistics managers, scientists, doctors, vaccine developers, and more show the presence of women at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19. Globally, women make up about 70% of the health staff, especially nurses, midwives and health care workers. However, this number of women is not reflected in national or international decisions about the disease. In addition, women are paid much less than men and have fewer managerial positions in the health sector. Masks and other protective equipment designed and measured for men and put women at greater risk. The needs of women at the forefront must be prioritized: this means that health workers must have access to protective equipment for women and menstrual health products, and flexible working conditions must be provided to balance the burden of caring for them.




Women’s health


Disinfectants and hand washes are key elements in preventing the spread of Covid-19 disease. According to the World Health Organization and the International Organization for the Protection of Children, up to date, 3 billion, about 40% of the world’s population do not have access to hand washing with soap and water in their homes. Extreme poverty affects 689.4 million people, more than half of them are women and girls. These people live on less than $ 1.90 a day, in which stragglers and refugees are more vulnerable.


Women and girls who previously had health and safety problems due to poor health, reproduction and menstruation, and lack of access to clean water and private sanitation are at particular risk. When health care systems are under pressure and resources are limited to meet the needs of the disease, it can disrupt health care for women and girls. These services include prenatal and postnatal health care, access to quality sexual and reproductive health services, and support for people with sexual violence. Health effects can be catastrophic, especially in rural, marginalized, and illiterate areas where women have less access to health care, essential medicines, and insurance coverage. Prior to the pandemi, 810 women died daily from pregnancy-related illnesses, 94 percent of which occurred in low-income, low-middle-income countries. Past epidemics have led to increased maternal mortality, complications of adult pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Numerous inequalities such as: ethnicity, economic status, disability, age, race, geographical location and sexual orientation affect the consequences of this disease.

Economic shocks



In the economic crisis, women and girls suffer more. Worldwide, women generally have lower incomes, lower savings, and more single-parent families. Also women often have disproportionately insecure jobs in the informal economy and services, with less access to social protection. This makes them less able to withstand economic shocks than men. For many families, school closures and teleworking have led to an increase in women’s unpaid activities at home, leading to less employment or a balance of income-generating activities. This is worse for women in developing countries. Where large numbers of people are employed in the informal economy and have far less social support. These benefits include health insurance, leave and other benefits. Although informal employment worldwide has a higher source of income for men (63%) than for women (58%), in low-income countries a higher percentage of women than men work in informal employment. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, about 92 percent of working women are engaged in informal activities compared to 86 percent of men.

It is possible that this pandemic will lead to a long decline in women’s incomes and labor force participation. The International Labor Organization estimates that global unemployment will rise between 5.3 million (low scenario) and 24.7 (high scenario) from the baseline level of 188 million in 2019 as a result of the impact of Covid-19 on GDP growth. In comparison, global unemployment rose by 22 million during the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. Informal female employees, immigrants, youth and other vulnerable groups are prone to layoffs and redundancies. For example, the results of a United Nations study of women in Asia and the Pacific show that women lose their job faster and have fewer income options.

According to the US Census Bureau, male unemployment rose from 3.55 million in February to 11 million in April 2020, while female unemployment, which was lower than pre-crisis male unemployment, rose from 2.7 million to 11.5 million that Increased during the same period. The picture is clear even for young women and men aged 16 to 19, with the unemployment rate rising from 11.5 percent in February to 32.2 percent in April.






Unpaid work and housework


The global economy and the maintenance of our daily lives are built on the invisible unpaid work of women and girls. Before the crisis, women were almost three times more likely than men to do unpaid work and household chores. Teleworking and the implementation of social distance, the closure of schools and high-pressure health systems have increased the demand for work from women and girls to meet basic needs, family survival and care for the sick and elderly. Since March 2020, due to this pandemic of more than 1.5 billion students at home, gender norms have increased the demand for childcare and domestic work for women.

These activities limit their ability to do paid work, especially when jobs are not remotely controllable. Lack of child care support is especially problematic for hard-working employees and single mothers who are responsible for child care. Probably due to the discriminatory social norms of Covid-19, it increases the workload on young girls and women, especially in poor and isolated rural areas. Evidence from past epidemics shows that adult girls are more likely to drop out of school and not return to school even after the crisis is over. Unpaid women’s activities have long been recognized as a driver of inequality directly linked to wage inequality, low income, and psychological and physical stress.

This crisis provides an opportunity to identify, reduce and redistribute unpaid activities once and for all.




Young women and girls


Young people at all levels, from awareness campaigns to volunteer support to the elderly to front-line work, are working to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic. However, young people, especially young women, indigenous peoples, migrants and refugees, face severe economic, social, health, and increased risks of sexual violence due to quarantine, discrimination, and more. Closing schools and high-pressure health care will also have a devastating effect on young women and girls. At the end of March 2020, UNESCO estimated that more than 89% of the world’s student population had dropped out of school or university due to school closures, forcing many students to study online.

However, a large number of students have dropped out of school with very low technology or no internet access. Young women and girls living in poverty or in rural areas in isolation are more likely to be expelled from school for care and work at home. They are more likely to get married at an early age and other violence as families find ways to reduce economic pressure. Youth unemployment is severely affected: Following the 2008 recession, youth unemployment was significantly higher in many areas, and the recent expansion of the toxic economy will increase these inequalities. Before the epidemic, there was no upward trend in the number of employed youth, students and college students. Of the estimated 267 million young people in the world, two-thirds are women.






As the Covid-19 virus spreads, there is an urgent need to end the conflict. To focus more on stopping the spread of the disease, UN President Antonio Guterres issued a global order in April 2020 to stop all forms of violence, from battlefields to homes. Wars and human catastrophes that lead to social and economic collapse deprive women and children of access to needs such as food, education, security and health. Years of war in countries like Yemen and Syria have destroyed hospitals, disabled the health care system, and hastened the outbreak of Covid-19 to send humanitarian aid to people, especially women and children, in war-torn countries.

According to the latest statistics before the outbreak of the disease, the birth rate in half of the countries in turmoil and war, the alarming rate was more than 300 deaths per 100,000 births. Increasing pressure on the medical sector could increase the mortality rate in this area. On the other hand, displaced and asylum-seeking women and girls demand special attention and care because of their special needs. For example, refugee camps, due to their high population density and the resulting physical distance gap, expose women and girls to more gender-based violence, especially when using public toilets and water distribution facilities. Evidence shows that women’s participation increases the possibility of achieving peace. So far, in most cases, they have been excluded from peace talks and their specific needs have been ignored. In 2019, only 26% of peace agreements included gender considerations. In a world plagued with the disease, the possibility of rapid peace is lost.





Immigrants around the world are the backbone of health systems and economies, as doctors, nurses, scientists and researchers, entrepreneurs, hard workers, etc. are at the forefront of responding to Covid-19. Immigrant working women, who previously faced various forms of discrimination and inequality, also face gender restrictions in immigration policy. They may have limited access to essential health care and be exposed to sexual abuse and economic exploitation. Immigrant working women are more likely to be employed as insecure domestic workers, cleaners, and laundry workers in insecure jobs in the informal economy, especially in low-income hard jobs.

These individuals are generally excluded from social support and insurance schemes, which limit their access to health services, legal benefits, and other social and economic benefits. The pandemic has led to the loss of income and jobs for many of the 8.5 million migrant women domestic workers. The recession has left migrant working women with less money to send to their families and countries of origin.




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