The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on women, according to a report by UN Women. The report, Unlocking the Lockdown: The Gendered Effects of COVID-19 on Achieving the SDGs in Asia and the Pacific, suggests that women have shouldered most of the burden as unpaid essential service workers with 63% of women seeing increases in their time spent working (compared to 55% of men) since the outbreak.
In a statement released recently, UN Women said that Covid-19 may just be reversing the hard-won gains Asia-Pacific has made in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The pandemic, it stated, is hitting women’s economic resources the hardest, with 66% of women seeing decreases in income from savings, investments and properties compared to 54% of men. The report also indicated that a larger percentage of women (53%) have seen their paid work hours reduced, as compared to 31% of men since the outbreak.
Data was collected through rapid assessment surveys covering Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Thailand with the help of national government bodies, public-private partnerships and mobile network operators within a week after the pandemic was declared.
Barriers in accessing daily necessities like food, hygiene and medical products have also grown, it said, as a result of border closures and movement restrictions during the lockdown.
In Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Philippines and Thailand more women than men (55% of women as opposed to 53% of men overall) are finding it difficult to access necessary products.
Although existing health data shows that men are more likely to die from the Covid-19 virus, the pandemic is triggering a mental health crisis, especially among women where 66% of women saw their mental health affected, while 58% of men reported the same.
Increases in unpaid work, job and income loss, and the effects of the lockdown on gender-based violence are among the factors that might be contributing to higher rates of stress and anxiety among women. Younger women aged 10–24 years old in particular have seen their mental health disproportionately affected.Mohammad Naciri, UN Women Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific said, “Data from UN Women’s rapid assessment surveys, however, showcases that the consequences of Covid-19 expand well beyond physical health. More women are seeing their mental health affected and are having more trouble seeking medical care and accessing medical supplies.”
Mohammad Naciri also hoped that the results of the survey will be able to help guide policy makers to make policies that will help the women in their countries.
“Having this data is critical to inform emergency responses. Otherwise, we are making our decisions blindfolded, ” he said.
The rapid assessment survey involved thousands of participants in nearly every participating country.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caught many off-guard and collecting this invaluable data is key to not only designing interventions that work, but to provide meaningful support in a reasonable time frame, ” says Mele Maualaivao, Country Programme Coordinator for UN Women in Samoa.
The survey findings already have direct impacts on the region under study.
In Maldives, the government is now using the results to plan its response to the crisis after the National Bureau of Statistics partnered with UN Women to survey more than 5,000 people.
Meanwhile in the Philippines and Bangladesh, a second round of surveys will be conducted to evaluate the improvements that have taken place since the outbreak began.
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