Pandemic disproportionately affects women, girls


Rapid gender assessment undertaken by the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens, in collaboration with UN Women, Care Nepal and Save the Children has revealed that groups most affected by COVID-19, include daily wagers, farmers, landless women, women working in adult entertainment sector, women from Dalit and Madhesi communities, gender and sexual minorities, differently-abled women, adolescent girls, displaced women, and those living with HIV AIDS.

Objectives of the RGA were primarily to understand gender differential impacts of COVID-19 on vulnerable and excluded groups and to understand how existing gender and social inequalities have been exacerbated by the pandemic in the community and in quarantine situations in Nepal.

The rapid gender assessment was conducted by using primary data collection and analysis from 12 districts representing seven provinces through key informant interviews.

Altogether 465 community members representing 17 targeted vulnerable population groups were interviewed from May 31 to June 17.

According to the rapid gender assessment report release by the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens on October 21, women’s unpaid care workload has increased as a result of the lockdown imposed by the government to contain the spread of COVID-19, as all family members have been staying at home and more so with the return of migrant family members, school closure and hospitals not prioritisingnon-coronavirus patients’ admission and care. Domestic workers have to work between 18-22 hours each day, instead of the usual six to10 hours now. Household and care work burden have not been shared equally among other family members due to the traditional gender division of labour that assigns women primary role and responsibility of household and care work.

“Increased workload and lack of coping strategies, have increased emotional and physical problems causing stress and anxiety among women and girls. Women are losing control over emergency savings because men are using the savings to cater to their personal needs. Women’s lack of decision-making and ownership of assets has remained unchanged,” read the findings of the report.

The number of women not engaged in paid work has increased by 337 per cent due to the pandemic. The COV- ID-19 crisis is likely to aggravate food insecurity among already vulnerable groups, such as landless women, women-headed households with no savings, returnee women migrant workers and single women due to loss of income.

As per the findings, 83 per cent of women have lost their jobs. Those hardest hit are women daily wage workers, women working in the entertainment sector, brick kilns self-employed women. This study predicts that repercussions may be seen in the sector of agriculture in coming months due to loss of investments.

Positive impacts such as male returnee migrant workers supporting females in vegetable farming and sale of vegetables through collective centres in Haat bazaar have been witnessed through local government interventions in Rasuwa and Gorkha districts.

The current condition of joblessness and loss of income are likely to further impoverish vulnerable groups and push them to accept more risky jobs as a survival strategy.

Access to basic and other services have also been affected by the pandemic. Marginalised communities, as well as women and men with chronic illness, older people, pregnant and lactating women, and people living with disabilities find it difficult to access basic services such as food and health services including reproductive health services.

The current relief measures and quarantine services have failed to address the specific needs of groups such as lactating mothers, pregnant women, women with new-born babies, gender and sexual minorities and Muslim women.