The Impact Of COVID-19 On Women

30 Oct

The impact of Covid-19 on women

Statistics can be very tricky sometimes. If you watch the news all over the world, the COVID-19 mortality rate is twice the number for men as compared to women. It may lead you to believe that men are worst affected by the pandemic and its consequences.
However, this data only takes into consideration the deaths that can be termed as Covid deaths and is not all-inclusive. The pandemic is much more than only the fear of contracting the virus, it includes the migrant crisis soon after the first lockdown was announced with no clear information given to the working class of the country.
They travelled back to their hometowns in adverse conditions, under the harsh sun with minimal food and many pregnant women, children and ailing elders of the family. The lack of medical facilities available for general checkups and tests made life difficult for any person who requires constant medical check-ups and medications.
The COVID-19 harmed women’s health in multiple ways:
  • Unavailability of Medical Facilities
Even before the pandemic, the medical facilities in India were lacking, but the Coronavirus showed us an ugly picture of the distance between what it should be, and what we had in place. The hospital beds were full and even after many makeshift emergency rooms were created, it was nowhere close to what we needed.
In these trying times, people were not only struggling for beds but medicines, PPE kits, gloves and sanitation requirements. Even Non-Covid essentials were hard to buy due to lockdowns and inefficient transportation services.
People who require regular medical attention like chemo for cancer patients, blood dialysis, etc face major issues in trying to book an appointment and get medications. Even patients with any other ailments who required equal attention had to be side-lined due to the situation, that complicated many cases and people had to even lose their lives. These situations were worse for women in specific, especially the ones with poor socio-economic backgrounds.
There are many areas in India where we still do not have access to even immediate medical attention and they travel kilometres to see a doctor. However, in these times, the doctors were unavailable as they were all overworked with the Covid cases and many of these sites have been repurposed for Covid treatment. Thus, the women either had to wait in pain for months or succumb to their ailments.
  • Unwanted Pregnancies and unsafe abortions

An affiliate of Marie Stopes International (MSI), the “Foundation for Reproductive Health Services India”, estimated that the pandemic and its consequences like the multiple lockdowns across the country and the downfall in the economy could all contribute to 26 million couples in India being unable to access contraception, leading to 2·3 million unintended pregnancies and over 800 000 unsafe abortions. Even the analysis conducted by the Centre for Global Development showed that access to contraception, antenatal care, and attended births has declined by more than 10% during the pandemic.
According to Vinoj Manning, the chief executive officer of the Ipas Development Foundation (an organisation that is focused on the delivery of comprehensive abortion care), said that even though the Government of India classified reproductive health as an essential service, 3 weeks into the lockdown after the doctor’s protest. It had a negligible impact on ground level.
  • Economic and social effect
According to the 2021 Global Gender Gap Report by World Economic Forum, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues as the gender gap (globally) has increased by a generation from 99.5 years to 135.6 years. Even when women make 80% of nurses and 67% of the healthcare workforce in general, according to a survey of 104 countries and are on the frontlines of Covid exposure. The pandemic will push an estimated 96 million people around the world into extreme poverty and as a result, widening the gender poverty gap. The economic downsizing is affecting  women worst as based on a sample of 55 countries.

The pandemic has also forced us to shut down schools but based on data, that might be the last time a girl may have stepped into school. According to the report, shutting down schools increases marriage risk for a girl by 25% per year, and, in countries where bride price is common, loss of household income increases the probability of marriage by 3%. 100 million girls were at risk of child marriage in the next decade, even before the pandemic, according to a report by UNICEF. As an aftereffect of the pandemic 10 million more girls are at the risk of child marriage.
  • Psychological impact
According to the UNFPA, it is estimated that an additional 31 million gender-based violence cases will be reported if the lockdown continues for 6 more months around the globe. The Global Protection Cluster is a UNHCR led network of NGOs and UN agencies. It was reported in August 2020, that gender-based violence was occurring at a higher incidence in 90% of its operations. Another study from the United States, Australia, Argentina, Mexico, India, Italy, and Sweden found that on average domestic violence increased 7.8% across those seven countries after pandemic-related lockdowns were imposed in early 2020.

The lockdowns though created a physical barrier against the virus, but pushed many women back into the four walls of the traumatic space, they were trying to escape. Whether it is living with toxic parents, an abusive husband or the pressures from schools to pay fees for children’s tuition and providing them with technological tools and the essential needs of the family, it has risked the mental health of the women to deteriorate. With nowhere to escape, the psychological after-effects of the lockdowns will affect the health of these women.
We believe every adversity can be converted into opportunity. At the moment, it is important that we maintain good standards of hygiene and follow COVID-19 guidelines as prescribed according to the WHO directives by the national governing bodies, state administration and local authorities. Try to help as many people as you can in and around our neighbourhood, who require help. We can use this failure as a lesson and build a more sustainable and equal society for our future generations.