The Impact of COVID on Women

women-support

The Ripple Effect of COVID on Women

Perhaps, it may seem like a no-brainer. But we don’t feel that the women have been heard enough throughout this pandemic. Just like those with temporary visas we’ve forgotten, the women have not been talked about. 

THEIR STATE TODAY: 

For a matter of fact, COVID-19 has not affected everyone uniformly.

 “Viruses do not discriminate; societies and systems do.” 

The pandemic is exposing and exploiting inequalities of all kinds, including gender inequality. 

Across every sphere, from health to the economy, from security to social protection, the impacts of the pandemic are exacerbated for women and girls.

In the long term, its impact on women’s health, rights and freedoms could harm us all.

Ignoring effects of Covid-19 on women could cost $5tn, warns Melinda Gates, former General Manager (Microsoft).

But what really are these effects? Let’s find out.

The un-scrutinized consequences of COVID on women :

1. Their economic & productive lives are affected disproportionately

The pandemic is lurching the world economy towards a global recession, which will be strikingly different from past recessions.

As observed across the globe, women earn less, save less, hold less secure jobs and are more likely to be employed in the informal sector. 

They have less access to social protections and are the majority of single-parent households. 

Therefore, their capacity to absorb economic shocks is less than that of men.

And as women take on greater care demands at home during COVID, their jobs will also be disproportionately affected by cuts and lay-offs.

In many countries, the first round of layoffs has been acute particularly in the services sector, including retail, hospitality and tourism, where women are overrepresented. 

The situation is even worse in developing economies. There, the vast majority of women’s employment – about 70% – is in the informal economy with few protections against dismissal or for paid sick leave and limited access to social protection. 

To earn a living these women often depend on public space and social interactions, which are now being restricted to contain the spread of the pandemic.

2. The Pandemic took a physical toll on them

The social and physical isolation measures that are critically needed to reduce the spread of the deadly virus are taking a dangerous toll on the physical health of many women, claimed Margie Davenport, an associate professor of kinesiology, sport and recreation.

According to a survey, about 47% of women reported that they have put on the extra pounds during COVID-19 quarantine.

With them being stuck at home, many reported changes in eating and exercise, breaking healthy habits – which experts said is alarming.

Researchers have also warned that the COVID-19 outbreak could have a major impact, particularly on women and girls’ physical health globally.

With the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreading rapidly worldwide, many countries had to implement strict measures, including nationwide lockdown, resulting in an exponentially increasing number of health issues.

Your key to cure here is to make sure your plate is full with various physical activities. This includes getting up on time, making sure you are on top of your work, physical fitness and making use of the lockdown to spend quality time with family.

RELATED POST: Tips for Women to Effectively Manage Work-From-Home and Family

3. COVID wreaked havoc on their emotional & mental health as well

A recent survey from Total Brain found that 83% of working women have experienced an increase in depressed moods, compared to just 36% of working men.

Make no mistake: An impending mental health crisis is looming.

But it is women whose mental health is being disproportionately impacted during this time. According to Axios, the majority of essential workers are women. Additionally, as the New York Times reported, women are taking on most of the additional work at home, be it homeschooling or keeping their homes tidy.

So it makes complete sense that women are experiencing higher rates of mental health issues. 

Women across the globe are facing depression, insomnia, anxiety, anger, emotional exhaustion, and PTSD-like symptoms.

Another broad body of research links social isolation and loneliness to poor mental health. Polling data from March,2020 – shows that women with children under the age of 18 are more likely to report major negative mental health impacts than their male counterparts.

In addition to social isolation or distancing, many of them are also dealing with increased levels of worry over loved ones health, employment and finances, which can further take a toll on mental health. 

It is, nevertheless, crucial to understand that the impact on women vis-a-vis their mental well-being is often more severe and for a long-term during a crisis, in particular when hit with the global disaster of magnitude being currently experienced.

4. Their invisible unpaid care & domestic work

Even before the crisis began, women did nearly 3x as much unpaid care and domestic work as men. 

Additionally, now the social distancing measures, school closures and overburdened health systems have put an increased demand on women and girls to cater to the basic survival needs of the family and care for the sick and the elderly.

In such a scenario, discriminatory social norms are likely to increase the unpaid work load of COVID-19 on girls and adolescent girls, especially those living in poverty or in rural, isolated locations.

A survey shows that only 1 in 5 (20%) working mothers rely on a family member or friend to take care of their children, when compared to 32% men. 

Latest findings also show that more than 46% of working mothers report working till late to make up for work.
Also in urban areas, due to the greater proportion of nuclear families, women may be needed to support the family by being at home to take care of the sick and/or due to loss of jobs/earnings in the immediate future. 

But all of this, goes unnoticed and unpaid.

5. Violence is not just on the battlefield. It is also in homes.

While it is too early for comprehensive data, there are already many deeply concerning reports of increased violence against women around the world. Surges are being reported in many cases of upwards of 25% in countries with reporting systems in place. 

No doubt, it is a silent pandemic: “Domestic Violence” 

And even if that sounds bad, it doesn’t end here. 

Beneath all of this, there has been one serious blind spot: the rising reports of domestic violence cases in households itself. 

In March 2020, the National Commission For Women stated that domestic violence reports have more than doubled ever since the lockdown began. 

And this is after when, even before the pandemic domestic violence was considered a serious concern. 

In India, 1 in 3 women suffer sexual and physical violence at home.

Now imagine this: A situation where there are women already living in abusive households and who now, in the lockdown, are being forced to live 24 hours in a day under the same roofs as their abusers.

Hard to even imagine, right?

That is exactly what is happening right now. And that is exactly how helpless are these women right now. 

Not all of them can report. 

There are unheard voices out there, women who are trapped and unable to report what is happening to them. 

And this is how we’re collectively failing as a society.

Rest in peace humanity! 

RELATED POST: 10 Productivity Boosting Tools When You Work from Home

Supporting working mothers in these uncertain times – HOW CAN COMPANIES HELP?

Each and every one of us is affected but this unprecedented crisis will hit women — who often hold vulnerable and precarious jobs — the hardest. 

But here’s what companies can do to help:

Ensuring women’s representation and their inclusion in all planning and decision making:

Research shows that more diverse teams take better and more sustainable decisions. 

In a COVID era, companies should apply this guidance to crisis task forces and response teams, and ensure that both women and men are represented equally in COVID-related processes. 

Companies can actively set and reach ambitious corporate targets for women’s representation and leadership – in times of crisis and beyond.

Supporting working mothers and keeping in mind that the majority of unpaid care work falls to women:

Amongst other things, companies should offer flexible work arrangements, support safe and appropriate child care options, as well as paid sick, family and emergency leave, and offer equal maternity and paternity leave. 

The current situation provides a chance to disrupt gender stereotypes, change traditional narratives, and show that leadership and decision-making, household chores, and caring for and teaching children can and should be shared responsibilities.

Helping to address the unintended consequences of stay at home measures, including the alarming surge in domestic violence: 

Companies can play a vital role in helping to direct employees to needed services. This includes domestic violence hotlines and supporting the health and well-being of employees including pre- and post-natal healthcare.

Supporting women across the value chain and in the communities where your entire business operates: 

This may mean ensuring that suppliers that rely heavily on female labour receive payment for existing orders and additional support to keep afloat and paying workers, where possible. 

It might also include providing leniency to women entrepreneurs, offering financial products and services to save them from bankruptcy, and deliberately looking to build relationships with women-owned businesses as part of recovery efforts.

Partnering with Government and other sectors to tackle COVID-19 and support recovery efforts: 

The WEPs emphasize that a company’s responsibility to respect and support women’s rights does not end only at the company’s walls. 

H.E Margaret Kobia emphasized the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships and Ann Cairns outlined Mastercard’s efforts investing in vaccination and called on companies to maximize positive impacts – including beyond past focus areas.

Become your own “HERO” – Help Yourself!

Not to forget, you are your own hero. You are your own savior.

So, here’s what you can do to help “yourself”:

First and foremost, prioritize yourself: 

It does not need to be for hours. It doesn’t need to be every day. We know that it’s hard to prioritize when you have competing interests. But even something as small as taking a bath, or reading your favorite book,  try to find something that’s just for you and try to do that.

Create your boundaries: 

Just because everybody is at home doesn’t mean they get a say in your every second of every day. And just because you’re the caregiver doesn’t mean you have to be care-giving all the time.

Prioritize your sleep: 

Sleep is essential in being able to function from day to day efficiently.

Keep your body moving: 

Finding ways to get up and move at all, exercise-wise — even putting on a mask and walking around with your kids — is also a good way to get out some of the pent-up anxiety that you have going on.

Remember coping skills aren’t one-size-fits-all:

Just because one person says something is helpful doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. And just because something worked one time doesn’t mean it’ll work all the time. 

Learn how to be comfortable with uncertainty: 

Living a bit more a day at a time is helpful. It is, unfortunately, the way we are right now. And if you look too far into the future and hope we can plan everything out we’ll just be disappointed. So embrace the new normal.

You can always turn to your loved ones:

Talk to your friends or colleagues. Speak to them and let everything out that you’ve been holding in since months. Seek help from them. For they will support you. 

Most importantly, please SPEAK UP!

No matter what the world tries to convince you to believe, but trust us your voices matter. You matter. 

So if not you then who? And if not now then when?

Yes.. You got this!

Understanding what women are experiencing right now is critical if we want to learn the right lessons from this crisis.

COVID-19 is not only a challenge for global health systems, but also a test of our human spirit. And it’s recovery must lead to a more equal world that is more resilient to future crises.

Yes, women will be the hardest hit by this pandemic but you will also be the backbone of recovery in communities. Just hang in there.