There is not a single one amongst us who has either directly or indirectly not been affected by the havoc Covid19 has played on the systems which help us function. Some affected more than others but essentially impacting our lives in ways which we were simply unaware and unprepared for. Undoubtedly, the effect across the world is unprecedented in terms of physiological, social and economic repercussions and will be witnessed for years to come. From the global North to the South, West to the East; it would not be false to assume that this global outbreak has transcended all boundaries that separate us.
The Covid19 has sent shock waves across all the rich and poor countries; specifically the USA, Spain, Italy and China all of who are worst hit and so far constituted robust economies. Despite taking measures to limit the spread of the virus it has affected the elderly population and those which had pre-existing medical conditions. Sex-disaggregated data still needs completion; such as identifying trends on how the Covid19 has impacted both men and women. Incomplete data however, gives us all the more reason to deliberate that pandemics may affect men and women differently. This can be in terms of how they experience the disease, cope with it and in some cases face the risk of passing away. As gender may not be at the forefront of people’s mind and consciousness in times like these it must be deliberately taken into serious consideration for effective counter strategies.
As such pandemics magnify and intensify social inequalities which already prevail in societies. One such inequality is gender – household members will need to assess how to home school children or deal with closures of daycare centers? If there are any elderly dependent relatives at home – they will require looking after and caring. Couples who may be working on daily wages will have serious problems in running their households on a day to day basis and discerning where and how to provide for subsistence for tomorrow? Women are more likely to earn less than their male counterparts under usual circumstances; instances like the one prevailing may be a further cause for problem if they are single parents. Resulting in (in extreme cases) loss of potential earnings, disturbance in career progression and many dropping out of the labor force.
Pregnant women and new mothers are at risk particularly more so as they fend for their own and their baby’s lives in an unhealthy environment; along with a health care system under pressure for channelizing its medical resources towards the outbreak. Women who have consequently lost their husbands, fathers, sons to the Covid19 will stand victims to unparalleled pressures and challenges of existing. Those who work in the healthcare sector also face the threat of exposure to the Covid19 across the world as many are employed as midwives, nurses or community health workers. Moreover, another way pandemics may worsen inequalities is the difference in medical treatment that women and girls receive as previous facts from history reflect this sad reality.
Moreover, practicing social distancing and self-isolation in times where the stress and stressors are high will all form a complex nexus seriously threatening the coping mechanism for women. Especially in a country like Pakistan which rests on the foundations of social connectedness and benefits extensively from the culture of coming together thus disconnected from their usual support networks giving rise to secondary psychological trauma. Not limiting the debate to the Pakistani context but women around the globe are faced with multiple responsibilities ranging from domestic labor to child care; working from home to being economically weaker. The short and long term consequences for those already living a life in poverty meaning in absence of basic healthcare, no water or sanitation facilities, collecting food and travelling long distances every day for basic essentials are hit even more severely and intensely.
It is thus paramount that in all stages of the pandemic there is research on the gendered impact of the outbreak to assess how to make women visible in our fight against the Covid19. The current response actions need to introduce policies that cater to the vulnerabilities of women making relief efforts gender-sensitive and orientated. This should be done by incorporating the voices and acknowledging the efforts of women who are at the front line of local and national responses. It is in times like these that the ones advocating for gender rights come together and ensure through collective efforts that the situation of women and girls is not exacerbated and forces their already struggling counterparts to a human rights catastrophe. Per se the international fight towards achieving gender equality as part of the sustainable development goals can be realized through this event by turning it into an opportunity to address the inequities women face in both the presence and absence of a global health emergency.
Views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily present those of SDPI.
This article was originally published at: https://dailytimes.com.pk/599044/making-women-visible/
Approved By SDPI