Gender and COVID-19: Why Does the Virus Have a Greater Effect on Women?
How can governments provide support to women in response to global pandemics?
Women have a higher risk of exposure to coronavirus due to the care duties they undertake at home, while at the same time are less likely to be treated or have their symptoms taken seriously, according to an article co-authored by Assumption University Professor of Economics and Global Studies Smriti Rao, Ph.D. The article also provides recommendations on how governments can provide for women to endure global pandemics.
The article, published on the SEEP Network Blog titled, “COVID-19: Why Policymakers Need A Gender-focused Approach for Health and Economic Recovery” was authored with other leading experts to share the disproportionate effects of this global pandemic on women in developing countries.
In the article, Prof. Rao and her colleagues discuss that while pandemics affect everyone, women are particularly vulnerable to heath and economic crises. While women “comprise 1.5 billion of the world’s low-wage workers and twice as many of its carers,” they are often forgotten when stimulus programs are developed to provide relief for struggling citizens during a pandemic. Prof. Rao and her co-authors address the burdens facing women and how countries can support them during pandemics such as COVID-19.
Overburdened healthcare systems also jeopardize women’s access to care, including during pregnancy and for reproductive health services. Additionally, women find themselves at increased risk of domestic violence, as they are unable to take themselves or their children to safe locations.
Prof. Rao and her colleagues note that evidence demonstrates that women have a higher risk of exposure to coronavirus due to the care duties they traditionally undertake at home, while at the same time are less likely to be treated or have their symptoms taken seriously. Overburdened healthcare systems also jeopardize women’s access to care, including during pregnancy and for reproductive health services. Exacerbating the health care challenges, many women find themselves at increased risk of domestic violence, as they are unable to retreat themselves or their children to safe locations.
The authors write that, in order to prepare for the lasting effects of this crisis, governments should invest in measures that will provide primary health care services to women and violence-response programs to prevent violence against women and girls.
Because women comprise a significant portion of low-wage workers in the manufacturing, service, and informal sectors—which generally lack a social safety net—the effects of an economic crisis will cause girls to be pulled out of school and made to take on unpaid caring duties at home. The writers suggest that governments in developing countries should invest in bolstering supplies and income for health works and provide relief that “don’t rely on existing relationships to the paid economy.” Extending low-interest loans for businesses or wage subsidies to those already working are not enough as they benefit mostly males; instead, the authors propose a universal basic income payment for all adults, which would include women.
“Strong preparation for the gender- and poverty-driven aftershocks of the pandemic requires multilateral collaboration from local and global policymakers in efforts such as assessments of critical weaknesses and gaps in healthcare coverage,” they write.
SEEP is a network of non-profits with the mission of empowering members to be effective agents of change and enhance their collective ability to accelerate learning and scale impact. Member organizations aim to promote inclusion, develop resilient markets, and enhance the livelihood of poor across the globe; as well as to create opportunities for vulnerable populations to participate in markets and prosper.
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