Women in the pandemic

Women , the primary caregivers of almost every family of our country, tend to be the most discriminated against in almost every sphere- whether social, economic, political and especially health. And now as we are stuck in the pandemic, we are bound to bounce back decades on our progress made on poverty, education and healthcare. (Source:  https://unstats.un.org/sdgs) , and the women will , once again, be on the frontline.

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LOSS OF LIVELIHOOD-

With the female LFPR of 20.8% in 2019(fallen from 30.27% in 1990) that was not even half the global average of 47% and the women’s share in new formal payrolls below 20% in August 2020, India was no country for working women even before the pandemic. And now, due to the pandemic, women who earlier accounted for only 24% of the total workforce, now share 28% of the total number of jobs lost.

Reasons:

  1. According to Mckinsey study, women did 75% of the world’s total unpaid work. With people being stuck in homes due to the pandemic, the household workload on women increased indefinitely, which is why many of them left their jobs.
  2. Either due to pregnancy and related reasons or due to vaccine hesitancy, fewer women were taking vaccine jabs.
  3. Women are more likely to engage in unorganized sector, hence, being more prone to loosing jobs in such times of crisis. (eg.- tailoring and stitching, house-help)

Post pandemic, women are 11 times more unlikely to return to work and women comprise 48.04% percentage of the population. For a country that wishes for a speedy economic recovery as well as future growth, a 79.8% (and increasing) working population being a liability on the economy doesn’t align well with its economic ambitions.

Degrading social status-

With increased news publishing related to domestic violence, child marriages, sexual abuse and women trafficking during the pandemic, it’s hardly an assumption that the conditions of women will deteriorate further in days to come.

Reasons:

  1. With decreasing family incomes, women school dropout rate has increased and will continue to do so in the near future.
  2. With everything going online, children with no digital equipment accessibility lag behind. The households that are able to afford internet connectivity and mobiles give preference to their male child.
  3. Due to being stuck in the house, the female members spend a larger amount of time doing house-hold work. So, they find less time to devote to studies that now require more effort. Also, it tends to align them more towards house-hold work as well as present them primarily as caregivers amongst the younger generations.
  4. Women increasingly suffer from online harassment. In such cases, it takes a larger amount of time to track down the perpetrator as the person’s identity is unknown.
  5. With the administration occupied with covid-19 management, the cases of child marriage, trafficking and domestic violence are on rise. Women, being stuck in the same house as their molester and many-a-times being financially dependent on them due to job-loss during pandemic, find it difficult to file a complaint.

Health Concerns-

In India, women already suffer from malnutrition, morbidity and various maternal as-well-as reproductive health issues. In addition to this, women are more prone to mental health issues as well. As of July 2005, women represented approximately 40 percent of HIV/AIDS cases in India. These situations of pandemic are bound to worsen the already poor conditions of female health.

Reasons:

  1. The reduction in supply of food due to reducing incomes affect the food security of women the most when compared to any other member of the family.
  2. Women can, now, no longer afford menstrual sanitation products and contraceptives
  3. Being a victim of domestic violence or even stress, a woman’s mental as well as physical well-being will be neglected.
  4. Women with underlying health conditions have, due to declining economic resources, experienced worsening health conditions as a result of skipping medical care.

What can be done??

  1. The PDS system should be expanded to provide dry ration for a longer duration as well as larger amount. It should also include sanitary napkins .
  2. Through ASHA workers, the government should spread awareness related to reproductive health, hygiene and mental health as well.
  3. The government can grant free internet as well as set up mobile towers in areas of low connectivity. Also, internet cafes following proper covid-19 norms should be set up to provide digital equipment to those who cannot afford them.
  4. MGNREGA scheme should be expanded to incorporate the increased number of unemployed with special provision for women, including larger number of working days for all and social schemes should be set up for informal sector workers.
  5. Social awareness about letting girls continue their studies, as well as, motivating women to join workforce when situation stabilize is an important step.
  6. A national helpline number bringing together all NGOs who have come forward to help should be set up. It will make identifying those in need easier, with a uniform toll-free number as well as added government expertise.

Conclusion:

Women can be the backbone of economic development in times of crisis. Making right developments towards women’s issues now could prove to be beneficial to the country’s economy as well as society in the long run.

Categories: Editorial, Education, News

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