In a harsh examination of the pandemic’s impact, the Red Cross has cautioned that the social and economic weight of Covid-19 has fallen disproportionately on women around the world.
According to a comprehensive report released on Monday by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), women were particularly affected by loss of income and education, increases in domestic violence, child marriage and trafficking, and responsibility for caring for children and sick relatives.
“Women always pay the largest price in a crisis,” said Francesco Rocca, head of the IFRC. “We’ve been talking about this for far too long… it’s time to act.”
Teresa Goncalves, the report’s co-author, said it was critical that the uneven socioeconomic impact of Covid be taken into consideration in recovery efforts because it may guide how the world dealt with other crises, such as the climate catastrophe. She stated, “We can yet recover better.”
The survey looks at how the pandemic intersected with other factors such as poverty, migration, violence, and harsh weather, combining comprehensive anecdotal testimonies from Red Cross national organizations with data from the World Bank and the United Nations.
Women were disproportionately affected in 31 of the 38 countries that participated, or 82 percent. Migrants and refugees, as well as the urban poor, were highlighted as particularly vulnerable groups.
Although men’s absolute job losses were larger due to their higher overall labour market involvement, women’s relative job losses were higher. Women, like young people and migrants, are over-represented in casual work and dominate industries like retail, domestic work, and tourism that are badly affected by the pandemic.
Spain, the Philippines, and Jamaica are among the countries hardest hit by the tourism slump, according to the survey.
Women make up a big share of those who indirectly make a living off visitors in Jamaica, as they do in many other parts of the world. According to Kevin Douglas of the Jamaican Red Cross, female street vendors were particularly hard hit, particularly at craft markets and in small villages reliant on a steady stream of visitors, such as Middle Quarters, a small village where women normally line the street competing to sell peppered shrimp.
The Philippine Red Cross’ Radhika Fernando described the tourism industry as “shattered”: “We’re not going to be able to get anyone here.”
During what is supposed to be the world’s longest Covid school closure, women in the Philippines were expected to take on additional duty for caring for children and relatives, as well as home-schooling tasks, she said.
This trend was seen in both richer and poorer countries throughout the research. In Spain, for example, where 18 percent of women had lost their employment compared to 14 percent of males seeking Red Cross assistance, women also performed the majority of unpaid domestic labour. “We are attempting to change mindsets,” stated José Sánchez Espinosa of the Spanish Red Cross. We sought to persuade males that they must share the responsibility for family care.”
Almost every Red Cross society questioned, including Spain, reported a rise in demand for mental health services, with women accounting for a disproportionate share of those seeking help.
The report also revealed that the pandemic’s socioeconomic effects were disproportionately felt by migrants, refugees, and internally displaced persons, connecting with women’s issues.
According to Diana Cruz, a migratory community engagement officer for the Colombian Red Cross, nearly half of the 1.8 million individuals who have fled Venezuela are women and girls, who are “doubly vulnerable.” Last summer, she added, shantytowns in Bogotá and elsewhere, which housed large numbers of displaced Colombians and Venezuelan migrants, were subjected to waves of evictions as a result of police operations.
“It’s really difficult to hear mothers say, ‘We’ve lost our roof over our heads.’ ‘I’m on the street by myself with my daughter.’ Rape or sexual abuse is a concern for them. “This occurred in the midst of the pandemic,” she explained.
Domestic violence has increased as a result of lockdowns around the world. In Colombia, over 73,000 people were victims of domestic abuse in 2020, up more than 40% from the previous year, while the number of cases is likely to be much higher, especially among undocumented migrants who are afraid of being deported.
In Lebanon, migrant and refugee women faced special obstacles, which were exacerbated by the economic crisis. “Child marriage is becoming more popular as a way out, especially among refugee families who lack security,” said Rana SidaniCassou, the IFRC’s Middle East and North Africa communications director.
The Afghan Red Crescent Society (Arcs) responded to a swiftly shifting scenario in Afghanistan, with the pandemic coinciding with the Taliban’s rapid takeover this summer and the country now facing one of the world’s largest food crises, with half of the population facing starvation. “From the beginning of the pandemic… so many individuals who were earning a daily salary, labouring on the streets in cities, lost their employment,” said Dr Mohammad Nabi Burhan, acting secretary general for Arcs. The effect on the broader public was enormous, and women are always more vulnerable.” RCS
Closures of schools have spilled into an uncertain position under the incoming administration. “I sincerely hope that girls’ schools will open because they need to be educated,” Nabi stated.
Kenya was an example of a country where Covid had combined with the climate issue and poverty, affecting women and girls in particular. The impact of school closures on females, according to Dr. Asha Mohammed, secretary general of the Kenyan Red Cross, has been “shocking,” with an increase in adolescent pregnancies and child marriages.
She stated that due to the drought in the north, some rural families had resorted to marrying off their daughters in exchange for livestock. “It’s as if it’s a zero-sum game.” You make an effort in one location to get girls back to school following the Covid shutdown, and then another calamity occurs.”
Mohammed recently returned from Cop26 in Glasgow, where she presented the case for Covid’s lessons to be taught. “The only way we’ll make a difference is if we have initiatives that specifically target women and girls.” It will not assist unless we make them resilient to these tragedies.”