KAMPALA, Uganda– The COVID-19 pandemic uniquely affects women in many ways. To respond effectively to the crisis, leaders must take into account gender-dynamics of the outbreak’s impact. Paying attention to women’s needs and leadership will strengthen the COVID-19 response. Women are making essential contributions to the COVID-19 response, but due to long standing inequalities, the impact of the crisis is hitting women the hardest.
UGANET has been at the forefront in the fight for women’s rights and the inclusion of women in the leadership spaces with the belief that inequality undermines the progress we have to make as a country and society.
As an organization, UGANET champions existing rights of women which so often are invisible or are easily sacrificed in times of crisis. There are many women in the informal sector. Some of them are stuck with hungry children while others are facing violence at home. Additionally, they are at increased risk of infection and loss of livelihood, and existing trends point to less access to sexual and reproductive health and rise in domestic violence during a crisis. Therefore, efforts must be made to ensure the much needed gender-equal response.
The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) has provided 4 key actions to include women’s needs in the COVID-19 response:
- Protect essential support systems for victims of gender-based violence. Domestic violence is on the rise in several countries and online since the outbreak of the virus, and the lockdown that followed after. Hotlines, shelters, and services must remain available to survivors who may be isolated with their abusers.
- Support and listen to women at the frontline of the COVID-19 response. Women make up 70% of the social and health workforce and may need specific supplies and equipment.
- Develop stimulus plans that build women’s economic resilience. Financial recovery plans must target women, who are over represented as informal workers and daily wage earners.
- Include women and women’s organizations in all decision making. Embedding women’s needs and perspectives will ensure a more gender-equal response.
UGANET has already taken steps in an effort to combat gender based violence. For the past month, the Ntinda based organization has provided a toll free number open to all communities and migrants who may be subjected to human rights violations. The 0800333123 24 hour helpline supports over 10 local and international languages. In addition, they have also established a shelter for female victims of domestic violence which is already housing a number of women who are receiving psychological and legal help.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not only a health issue, but a profound shock to our societies and economies, and women are at the heart of the care and response efforts.
As front-line responders, health professionals, community volunteers, transport and logistics managers, scientists and more, women are making critical contributions to address the outbreak every day.
We would like to urge the government and other key stakeholders to take into consideration the four key actions highlighted in the UN Women’s recommendations and work together with civil society organizations to ensure that gender equality is upheld in the COVID-19 response.