5 Ways COVID-19 is Disproportionately Impacting Women WorldwideThe COVID-19 pandemic has socially, mentally and economically impacted billions of people across the world. However, COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting women worldwide, including factors such as mental health, income loss and inadequate food provisions. As the pandemic continues to affect populations, it is becoming more apparent that women are facing greater hardships and systemic inequalities. This article discusses how COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting women across the globe, and how governments can go about fixing these inequalities. Although women have persevered and have adapted in inspiring ways, this pandemic has exposed structural gender inequalities in health, economics, security and social protection.

5 Ways COVID-19 is Disproportionately Affecting Women

  1. According to a survey by the non-profit CARE, 55% of women reported that they lost their jobs and/or their primary source of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, women are more likely to be employed in service and informal sectors, such as vendors and traders, that COVID-19 is hitting the hardest. Even within the formal sectors of employment, women are facing the impact of unemployment at greater rates than men. For example, in Bangladesh, women are six times more likely to lose paid working hours than men. Women also have fewer unemployment benefits. In Zimbabwe and Cameroon, women make up 65% of the informal workforce—a workforce not entitled to unemployment benefits.

  2. A lack of access to online education is significantly affecting Indigenous, refugee and low-income household communities and greatly adding to education inequalities. Young women and girls are greatly impacted by gender-based violence due to movement restrictions, especially without access to schools and public services. This gender-based disparity is largely due to boys being prioritized in many poverty-stricken countries. Because of this, girls are likely to be pulled out of school before boys in order to compensate for increased domestic work and care and to alleviate the economic burden of schooling.

  3. Women are nearly three times more likely to report mental health impacts from COVID-19. This statistic is backed by multiple reasons, including how women are facing the burden of unpaid care work, increasing mobility restrictions and increased threats of violence. In fact, the CARE survey showed that 27% of women are experiencing an increase in mental health issues, anxiety and stress due to COVID-19, compared to 10% of men. In Lebanon, 14% of men spend their time on housework and care, as opposed to 83% of women. Gender roles and expectations of women have increased during this pandemic, thus causing a greater gap in mental health issues between men and women.

  4. Female refugees are at greater risk of violence, income loss and mental health impacts. Refugees are already living in precarious situations with a lack of food, income, health security and home safety. When considering various countries, especially those with a large migrant population, it is clear that vulnerable populations are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, in Afghanistan, 300,000 refugees have returned because they have lost their jobs and income. In Thailand, migrants report losing 50% of their income. Both of these statistics also offer an idea of why mental health issues have increased during this pandemic. COVID-19 has led to a loss of income and jobs for the 8.5 million domestic migrant workers, as well as the dismissal of their health and safety.

  5. As compared to 30% of men, 41% of women reported having an inadequate supply of food as a result of COVID-19. This difference reflects the gender inequalities in local and global food systems, as well as the expectation of women to buy and prepare the food for their families. Additionally, this pandemic is causing many disadvantaged households to make less nutritious food choices. In Venezuela, 61% of people have access to protein-filled foods and vegetables, while 74% only have access to cereal.

Although it is clear that women and girls typically endure a greater burden from the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, there are ways governments and individuals can help alleviate COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on women. These include investing in women leaders, funding non-profit organizations that work to promote women’s rights and committing to organizations that work to close the gender gap.

– Naomi Schmeck

Photo: Flickr 

The organization Half of Humanity is working to combat an issue that often gets swept under the rug: unhealthy menstrual practices within refugee populations.

The organization’s most recent efforts have been teaming up with NuDay Syria to provide culturally appropriate feminine hygiene products to Syrian refugees. The kit includes a one-month supply of absorbent pads, wipes, soap, two doses of ibuprofen, candies and a handwritten note in Arabic that says, “You are beautiful!”

While other organizations share the goal of promoting healthy menstruation in vulnerable populations, Half of Humanity takes a culturally sensitive approach. For example, Syrian culture condemns the use of tampons, which is why none are included in the hygiene kit. All of the candies are halal out of respect for practicing Muslims.

Half of Humanity’s aid has concentrated primarily on displaced female populations in the Middle East and North Africa, where women are particularly vulnerable to stigma as well as unhealthy menstrual practices. Refugees who cannot afford hygienic products in these low-income areas are likely to use unsanitary alternatives to hide their menstruation, such as unclean rags, grass or even trash.

The organization’s mission in target areas is critical. For example, in 2012, 51 percent of displaced Syrian women in Jordan experienced symptoms of a reproductive tract infection. Improper menstrual practices can also increase chances of HIV and pregnancy complications.

Menstruation also limits many women’s societal engagement. Studies conducted in Africa have shown that many girls consistently miss out on important opportunities such as schooling every month because public areas lack proper sanitation facilities.

Brianna Curran, the founder of Half of Humanity, hopes to enable female refugees to engage in civil action regardless of where they are in the menstrual cycle. Curran has received much recognition for her dedication to the cause, including a spot on the “30 under 30” list of remarkable young people working towards development, sustainability and human rights, created by the Center for Development and Strategy.

While Half of Humanity’s goals are constantly shifting to meet the needs of target populations, its overall impact has served to empower female refugees in both North Africa and the Middle East to engage with the rest of society all days of the month.

Kailey Dubinsky

Photo: Flickr