Women are victims of pre-existing gender inequalities, and the effects of COVID-19 amplified those inequalities for women and girls around the world. From domestic violence to women’s health, the impact of COVID-19 is multifaceted.
In unprecedented times, resources become limited and oppressed groups will be the first to feel the weight of the crisis. According to McKinsey and Company, female job loss rates due to COVID-19 are about 1.8 times higher than male job loss rates globally, at 5.7 percent versus 3.1 percent, respectively.
In the United States, women made up 46 percent of workers before COVID-19. However, unemployment data suggests that they make up 43 percent of job losses since the pandemic. It is evident that women are in less position of power and, overall, seen as more disposable.
Globally, women are more likely to hold insecure jobs. When families stayed home, children stayed home from school, and other non-essential businesses closed, women were more susceptible to the economic shock.
According to UN Women and UNDP, 50 million women and girls will be pushed into extreme poverty. Simultaneously, 89 percent of the world’s student population was out of school at the beginning of the pandemic. This created the perfect storm of overworked and underpaid mothers.
Someone has to stay home with young children. While men were still holding onto their jobs, mothers were put into overwhelming circumstances.
Before the pandemic, women did three times the amount of unpaid care and domestic work compared to men. Long-standing gender norms allowed for this to amplify under the circumstances of COVID-19.
An ongoing cycle of inequality and lack of autonomy for women should be at the forefront of the conversation as we begin to dissect the long-term effects of the pandemic. While there are concrete impacts, there is the place of women in a society that remains undervalued.
According to the Global World Values Survey, more than half the respondents in many countries in South Asia and MENA agreed that men have more rights to a job than women when jobs are scarce. About one in six respondents in developed countries said the same.
Long-standing social norms are playing out during the pandemic, and they especially put girls at risk. From what is known about past epidemics, girls that have dropped out of school are likely not to return to their studies.
This leaves room for them to fall into the role of housewife, mother, wife. There is value in those titles, but it can reduce them to that, and only that.
Violence against women since the pandemic has increased. Economic and social stresses have put families in physically and monetary tight circumstances. The lockdown domestic violence calls have increased: 33% in Singapore, 30% in Cyprus, 30% in France, and 25% in Argentina. There was a global strain on marriages and relationships due to the pandemic.
Furthermore, there was a gateway for other acts of violence against women to come to fruition. More online activity allows for more violence in chat rooms, over social media, and on gaming platforms. Economic impacts will likely increase sexual exploitation and child marriage.
Change is Needed
The world has been put in a position. We can either continue to walk all over women or turn our concerns into actions. Awareness campaigns, hotlines, and shelters are a few examples of how we can give women a chance at justice.
Leaving room for a conversation is the gateway to change. Women should not be silenced or put into a box, and if this pandemic did anything, it made that clearer than ever.
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Callie McNorton is a Journalism (Media and Society) student at Georgia State University and a Content Writer at the International Youths Organization for Peace and Sustainability.
Inputs and Edits by Sovena Ngeth.