Aren’t global catastrophes, such as the neoteric Covid-19 pandemic, supposed to be non-partisan. Shouldn’t the ruination of jobs, income and economy be linear, affecting everyone in its path rather than selective tribulation? Alas, it is anything, but. What is perhaps more disheartening, is the fact that this pandemic might have undermined the years of fight and struggle for gender equality and set it back by a decade.
Schools have been closed indefinitely and studies are being conducted online. The urban populace are mostly unaffected due to good internet connectivity and smart phones. However, the story is entirely different in suburban and rural regions. It is estimated that over 89% of students from across the world are out of school, and with job losses and loss of income, families have kept education at the backburner. And those who are able to provide education, prefer providing it to the male child. Devoid of education, the girl child is forced into menial work, or even worse, subject to child marriage
Gender based violence have risen globally in the last six months. Lack of finances, income cuts, job losses and lockdown are of course the obvious reasons. Disrupted justice systems due to the lockdown is another reason that offers little respite to the women who have to live on with their abusers. And this abuse has percolated to the online world as well. Online abuse of girls in chat rooms and social media sites have risen significantly during the lockdown period.
Penury-stricken women and girls living in marginalized communities with low literacy, with no access to clean water and sanitation, are more perturbed by the pernicious affect of a pandemic, which relies on cleanliness to stop spreading. The already overburdened healthcare system have failed to deliver essential health services to these women.
The last several months have also shown us how migrant workers are affected during a pandemic. Migrant workers are the backbone of a developing society and they provide its basic needs. The exodus of migrant workers, world over, again highlighted the discrimination against women. Migrant workers, especially women, form a major part of the unorganized sector, who are mainly unbanked or under-banked. Social distancing norms adversely affected the jobs of women in the informal sector. Women in these informal economy are generally excluded from welfare policies. The reverse migration has not only put a dent in their income, but their general well being as well.
The gender income disparity (evidenced in most income inequality report) has an adverse on women during an economic shock. In several developing and under-developed countries, the income disparity and employment ratio is heavily skewed against women. As the pandemic perpetuates, its affect on women’s income and their employment participation will also prolong. And as businesses start their operations amid travel restrictions, recruiters prefer men who can cope with the new norms.
1The pandemic has had an adverse impact on a lot of people and businesses, but its effect on women has been inordinate. But, women can find solace in the fact that at least the Coronavirus has been unprejudiced, (sarcasm intended).
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