By Umuhoza Therese | Associate Director, Global Public Health and Development | Africa
Gender inequality has undoubtedly increased during PHEIC like COVID-19 pandemic. Existing gender inequalities had worsened in various ways with the long term consequences arising in;
1. Job losses and economic impact: During COVID-19 pandemic, women have been disproportionately affected by job losses and economic impact. Women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to the crisis than men’s jobs, and women make up 54% of overall job losses despite only accounting for 39% of global employment. Women, especially those in vulnerable employment sectors, have borne the brunt of the economic fallout caused by the pandemic. With restrictions impacting industries like hospitality, retail, and caregiving, many women faced job losses or reduced work hours. The burden of unpaid care work at home also increased, making it difficult for women to re-enter the workforce, hindering their career advancement and financial independence.
2. Educational Setbacks: School closures during the pandemic disrupted educational opportunities for millions of children worldwide. However, girls faced unique challenges, including increased domestic responsibilities and limited access to digital learning resources. As a result, girls from marginalized communities were more likely to drop out of school, risking their long-term prospects and perpetuating gender disparities in education.
3. Safety and Mobility Concerns: The pandemic has also raised safety and mobility concerns for women and gender minorities. With reduced public transportation options and safety risks associated with crowded spaces, many individuals faced difficulties in accessing essential services and opportunities. Addressing these challenges is essential to ensure equal participation in social and economic activities.
4. Leadership and Decision-making: The pandemic emphasized the need for diverse leadership in crisis management. Yet, women’s representation in decision-making roles remains disproportionately low, hindering the implementation of gender-responsive policies and emergency response measures
5. Disparities in Healthcare access: Women’s access to healthcare has been affected by the pandemic. COVID-19 highlighted existing disparities in healthcare access for women and marginalized genders. Women’s health services, including reproductive healthcare, faced disruptions during the pandemic, affecting their overall well-being. Additionally, gender-based violence surged during lockdowns, underscoring the urgent need for comprehensive support systems for survivors. with disruptions to reproductive health services and increased barriers to accessing healthcare facilities.
To address these consequences, including disproportionate job losses for women, increased burden of unpaid care work, mental health impact, rise in gender-based violence, disparities in healthcare access, and neglect of gender experiences in emergency responses. It is recommended to implementing gender-responsive policies, supporting women’s economic empowerment, recognizing unpaid care work, promoting women’s representation in leadership roles, strengthening healthcare services, and integrating gender perspectives in emergency preparedness. These measures aim to foster a more equitable and resilient world, ensuring equal opportunities for all genders during public health emergencies.