COVID 19 Relief Measures – Drafting a Recovery Response revolving around Women
As the COVID induced pandemic wave continues to sweep across the world, from the developed nations to third world and under developed nations, increased restrictions on pursuit of livelihood and movement have driven the larger section of households in rural parts to sheer desperation for survival and existence. With rural populations accounting for almost three-quarters of the global poverty chart, the impact of the pandemic will inevitably be felt most severely by the poverty ridden in developing nations. Drilling down further and from evidence gathered from past track records during similar crises, it is evident that the major brunt of the social impact will be borne by rural women disproportionately. A gender analysis report shared by CARE International and the International Rescue Committee reveals that most countries’ COVID-19 response has failed to address and compensate for this inequality stemming from gender dimensions of risk, vulnerability, resources and coping capabilities. The response committees must take into consideration how women are outweighed by men in terms of coping capabilities due to their inherent body structure and resistance abilities and create relief solutions bearing in mind the same. Below suggested are some effective methods to ensure gender sensitive policies in relief packages for the rural poor.
5 Ways to Ensure Gender-sensitive Policies in the Wake of COVID-19
1. Ensure women’s access to information and participation in data collection.
Women, owing to their physical limitations and as primary caregivers of any household demand up-to-date public health and support information along with education on preventive measures and practice of safe hygiene. They should receive hand held guidance and knowledge on symptoms to watch out for, prominent sources of infection, preventive measures to apply and how to avoid being infected. Social assistance programs aided by government can provide them with safety kits containing hand sanitizers and face masks with thorough demonstrations on their use and application.
Data collection efforts should not be limited only to head of the household which is a male member more often than not. Survey reports prepared from data collected from interaction only with the household head are an inaccurate reflection on the state of affairs as it is spearheaded by gender biased data.
Forming Women’s groups — including savings, farmer and social groups, and community-based organizations — can be a powerful tool for information dissemination and gathering.
2. Ensure female farmers’ access to markets and agricultural resources.
It is dire essential for local food supply chains to continue functioning during pandemic aided lockdowns or curfew or similar shutdowns as otherwise it would lead to the complete collapse of any ecosystem, with the ripple effect soon affecting urbane spheres as well.
Governments have to be responsible for starting the initiative to establish substitute make shift markets bridging the gap between producers to consumers. In the absence of such implementable measures governments themselves can act as mediators and purchase surplus produce at fair prices and transport them to urban spaces subsequently.
Agricultural stimulus packages and subsidies should include specific allowances for women, backward classes and physically impaired.
3. Build rural women’s resilience to future shocks.
Relief Policy & response committee teams should also aim to develop and strengthen rural women’s ability to cope and prepare for similar crises in the future. This can be made into an implementable plan by offering direct support and facilities to female-headed households for the development of self-sustainable models such as kitchen gardens or animal husbandry. It can also be part of a sequenced intervention.
Other measures that could instill strength & resilience in women for combating tough times in the future include establishment of women-owned enterprises with government sponsoring. These mechanisms can form an instrumental alternative supply chain for pandemic relief efforts in bridging the gap between consumers and produce.
4. Expand rural women’s access to social assistance.
Household distributions rarely reach women because more often than not the household head is typically a man. Lack of access to information and facilities also put women at a back foot and leave them dependent on the male members to make ends meet. Impediments faced by women include lack of bank accounts and mobility constraints. Hence very few rural women who are usually self-employed farmers or small scale artisans end up benefiting from relief measures offered by Governments.
Social protection schemes can be adapted or expanded to specific assistance packages for rural women. These packages include assistance features such as food packages and food vouchers, particularly when regular markets are closed, movements are restricted and prices are going through the roof.
Other forms of social assistance can include food banks, community kitchens, school feeding programs, and waivers or deferrals of utility payments.
5. Adopt measures to prevent domestic violence.
Economic and social constraints, isolation and confinement and lack of peer groups make women easy targets for gender-based violence. Reports released by UN Women show a rise in domestic violence by almost 25% against women during COVID-19 induced lockdowns in many countries, even in developed nations.
Governments must take the responsibility of predicting such occurrences and establish appropriate safety nets and deterrents to discourage such incidents from happening. One way to get such support on ground is to fund women’s organizations that provide protection to women against domestic violence. Governments should designate shelters as essential services, establish free helplines and other safe reporting mechanisms and outreach centers, and provide health and other support services for protecting women during the COVID-19 induced lockdown