How Women Around the World are Being Affected by COVID-19
While it is true that COVID-19 has higher mortality rates for men, women are more likely than men to suffer from the economic and social costs associated with the pandemic. Some of the most notable disadvantages faced by women in these times are the reduction in availability for women’s reproductive healthcare, increases in gender based violence, and societal pressures such as the increased obligation to care for and teach children.
In many regions of the world, access to reproductive healthcare is severely limited. In these places, many of these services are provided by non-profit organizations to help empower women to take control of their futures. The pandemic has further distanced these women from resources that are already difficult to access. For example, Marie Stopes International (MSI), a nonprofit that provides contraception and safe abortions to vulnerable female populations, “has estimated that the pandemic could prevent up to 9·5 million girls and women around the world from accessing their services this year” (3). MSI clinics have been forced to close down due to lockdowns in communities in places such as Nepal and India. MSI has estimated that this “disruption could result in as many as 2.7 million unsafe abortions and 11 000 pregnancy-related deaths” (3).
Additionally, the global female population is facing increasing rates of gender-based violence. The pandemic has forced cities to shut down schools and places of employment, making the entire family stay at home together. This has left many women and girls trapped in close proximity to an abuser and taken away their access to safe spaces and support. For example, it was found that “within 1 week of France instituting its lockdown, reports of domestic violence had surged by 30%” (1). This is also the case in cities around the world. It was also reported that in Columbia, “reports of gender-based violence during lockdown increased by 175% compared with the same period last year, according to Plan International” (3). It is also very challenging for organizations to provide support for these women in these unprecedented times.
Women are also facing greater economic struggles, as loss of employment and childcare obligations seem to disproportionately affect women during the pandemic. According to a UN policy brief published in April 2020, “Across the globe, women earn less, save less, hold less secure jobs, are more likely to be employed in the informal sector. They have less access to social protections and are the majority of single-parent households. Their capacity to absorb economic shocks is therefore less than that of men” (1). In sectors such as hospitality, education, retail and many more, women make up the majority of the job losses. This is likely due to not only the industries many women work in, but their roles within these establishments. Women disproportionately hold the lowest paid jobs, which are also the jobs that are disproportionately affected by layoffs due to COVID-19. An example of this is the service industry, a sector that employs a larger number of women than men and also experienced extreme turmoil due to the pandemic. Due to the fact that human to human contact in business was restricted in most cases if not outright banned, businesses in the service industry had to lay off most of their front line workers. In a study conducted by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, it was found that “mothers in the UK were 1.5 times more likely than fathers to have either quit their job or lost it during the lockdown” (1). Most women who quit their jobs during this time cited childcare as their reason.
Large scale crises often have unique effects on different groups of people, being especially hard on already vulnerable populations. COVID-19 has brought a number of already existing disparities to the forefront of global attention and hopefully this will encourage action in the future.
About the Author:
Hi, my name is Julia Caputo and I am a research intern here at EWAAB. I have always been amazed by science and technology. I am a biomedical engineering student from Queens, New York and I am entering my third year at Stevens Institute of Technology. On campus, I am passionately involved in the Society of Women Engineers and Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity. I recently got my Emergency Medical Technician license and I hope to go to medical school.