A Dual Pandemic: COVID-19 and Sexism

Women have long been relied upon to serve as caretakers, but who is taking care of them? In a period of sustained crisis, women have also shouldered the burdens of child/elder care, widespread employment discrimination, and gender based violence (GBV). As we continue to respond to the pandemic, women cannot be left behind. They need to be given a platform and a seat at the table where decisions are made.

On August 19, 2021, Global Health Council hosted a community focus group discussion of 25 women from around the world aimed at understanding the unique impacts of COVID-19 on women. Participants were able to share their experiences in guided breakout rooms before coming together to walk through the newly launched Health For All Advocacy Toolkit (Co-developed by CSEM, GHC and other partners) to provide women with resources to amplify their advocacy.

Below are some key takeaways from the focus group:

Workforce

  • Women were often the first to be laid off during the pandemic. This led to not only financial inequities but also health inequities during employment-based vaccine rollouts;
  • Much of the health workforce is female. When we ignore the needs and recommendations of community health workers, we ignore the voices of women;
  • Governments need to invest in female entrepreneurs and workers starting in adolescence. Affordable or free child care should be a priority to remove barriers for women in the workforce.

Access to Health

  • Access to digital devices needed for telehealth initiatives like vaccine registration was not made a priority, leaving many women behind;
  • To fund pandemic response (ie. oxygen, ventilators, etc), funds were reallocated from other programs, especially those focused on providing sexual and reproductive health services. This disproportionately affected women and created barriers by decreasing available treatment options.

Gender-Based Violence

  • Lockdown policies in the absence of adequate social support and relief left many women shouldering the burden of childcare while facing increasing rates of poverty and gender-based violence;
  • Governments need to start conversations about GBV and strategize with other NGOs and the media to amplify the voices of women and girls living with disabilities who are survivors of violence.

Engagement

  • The inclusion of women in the COVID-19 response was missing. Women’s voices and needs were not adequately represented in decision-making groups. Policies for women should be made by women.

Next Steps

Results from this workshop will be included in a GHC publication focused on inequities across marginalized populations during the COVID-19 pandemic. GHC will share messages and key takeaways from this workshop with policymakers and key stakeholders in an event in the Spring of 2022 to ensure these influencers understand how to better support women. Further, GHC will use takeaways from these sessions to advocate and support women as we continue to respond to the pandemic.

Join Us!

GHC will be continuing this series of focus groups with people with disabilities, Black, Latino, LGBTQI+, indigenous/first national, elderly, refugees/immigrant, and Asian communities, to name a few. If you or a partner organization are interested in co-hosting, speaking, and/or participating in any of these sessions, please contact Eliana Monteforte at emonteforte@globalhealth.org.

 

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