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Covid-19 Could Hamper Decades Of Progress For Women Globally, Said UN Chief. Protection Of Women’s Rights Needs To Be A Priority

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In theory, women are now treated as equals to men and are even overtaking their male counterparts in different walks of life. But the reality isn’t as hunky dory as the theory. Women, on a daily basis, bear the brunt of disproportionate access to education, employment, income and the bare minimum social stature. Now, this could be due to social norms and systematic patriarchy that oppress women every step of the way. And, I am not just talking about India, this is the situation of women worldwide.

The current pandemic seems to be making it even tougher for women. The outbreak of coronavirus has exposed women to social and economic vulnerabilities, putting the progress we’ve managed to achieve in the past decades on stake. The UN secretary-general António Guterres addressed the issue in the virtual town hall meeting on Monday saying that “years, even generations” worth of progress of women and girls worldwide could be lost due to the Covid-19 crisis. Guterres said, “Without a concerned response, we risk losing a generation or more of gains.”

The town hall meeting was attended by women rights activists and young women from civil society organisations. He warned, “The pandemic has exposed the extent of its impact on physical and mental health, education and labour force participation as many women are effectively confined with their abusers, while resources and support services are redirected.” From health to social security to financial stability, women and girls have been put in great peril by the pandemic in every sphere of life.

The impact of Covid-19 on women and girls have been manifold. Let me elaborate. Starting from the gender inequality in the workforce that deepened in the pandemic, it was reported that women professionals are at a greater risk of losing their jobs and not get rehired post-Covid due to gender bias in the workforce. When it comes to laying off employees, women staffers are an easy target and this is the reason why female workers are hit worse and facing job cuts more than the male workers globally.

Another knock-off effect of the pandemic has been on the education of young girls. Call it the lack of funding or care burden imposed on girls, more female students have dropped out of school or not attending classes in the pandemic than ever. Covid has stalled 70 years of girl’s education in a matter of few months. Girls from the weaker sections of the society do not have access to gadgets for online classes and this has been a major factor of girls giving up education. Also, with health risks increasing and schools shut, more adolescent girls are spending time taking care of the family which also exposes them to Covid infection. In India alone, 10 million girls could supposedly drop out of school in pandemic. This also poses a risk of child marriages and physical and mental abuse of young girls in their homes.

Also, the violence against women and girls, which was already pretty bad prior to the pandemic skyrocketed in the crises as women were forced to be locked up with their own abusers. Domestic violence, mental harassment and physical abuse complaints shot up as soon as the lockdown started. This was also named shadow pandemic as the effects of this were far worse than the actual one.

All of these are the direct or indirect effects of the pandemic on the socio-economic growth of women which profoundly reverses the little of what we had managed to achieve in the name of women empowerment in the past decades. Now, due to the crisis, it is all going down in the dumps and no one can really predict if and when we will be able to come out of it.

Also Read: The Number Of Cases Of Domestic Violence Have Increased During Lockdown. The NCW Is Taking Initiatives To Fight It. But Is It Enough?

The UN Chief recalled the policy brief issued by the UN in April, when the pandemic started and urged the governments of all countries to make the protection of women and girls’ rights a priority and see to it that they are availed by them in order to recover from the alarming reversal in the progress of women. He said, “All women have a right to quality, affordable sexual and reproductive health services. Governments have a responsibility to make sure women and girls can access these services, even during a crisis.” He also insisted the importance of including health care and protection of women from potential abuse in the lockdown in the nation’s plans to tackle the crisis.

Once again, women are on the front line even at the time of a global crisis. We comprise half of the population and are still struggling to balance the sides of the see-saw socially, financially and politically. Thanks to the deep-rooted social norms and gender bias in the society, women worldwide are overburdened with the concern about socio-economic growth, empowerment and basic rights, besides the virus and health risks. As the world faces a pandemic, women’s growth and progress becomes the collateral damage and this is not okay. The protection of women’s right and their health and social and financial security should be the ultimate priority for every nation, especially at a tough time like this.

Also Read: Women Are More Likely To Lose Their Jobs During This Pandemic And Will Probably Not Get Rehired Due To Gender Biases. It’s Going To Be Tough For Us

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