COVID-19:  Govt Strategy Insensitive To Women, Fuels GBV, Loss of Livelihoods – Report

February 3, 2021
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By Chinelo Chikelu, Abuja

A report assessing the impact of COVID-19 on gender inequality, peace and security in Nigeria has shown government’s insensitivity to women and women issues amidst a raging pandemic.

Titled Now and the Future – Pandemics and Crisis: Gender Equality, Peace and Security in a COVID-19 World and Beyond, the report launched virtually, was carried out by the Women Advance Research and Documentation Center and Women for Women International, and supported by the governments of the UK and Norway, formed part of a global research by UK’s Gender Action Peace and Security in nine countries – Nigeria, Afghanistan, Colombia, Ukraine, Iraq, Lebanon, Myanmar, Palestine, Somalia and Uganda. It is aimed at proffering recommendations on how best to address the current and future pandemics to lessen its impact on women, peace and security.

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The report findings which corroborate global information on increased violence against women during global lockdown at the onset of the pandemic, indicates that despite Nigerian government’s pioneer move in declaring a state of emergency on Gender Based Violence GBV, not much has been done to address the issue. In fact, the report showed that women suffered loss of livelihood without any support or palliatives to ameliorate their situation. Funds for women especially in healthcare services were diverted, leaving pregnant women and girls uncared for at the time.

Likewise, they were increased cases of pregnant women and girls, unsafe abortions, and the exclusion of women in healthcare owing to poverty, sexual orientation and physical disabilities.

Also, majority of the healthcare workforce whom are women faced high risk of contracting COVID-19 owing to lack of facilities and the protective gears such as masks, sanitizers etc. required to attend to COVID-19 patients.

Speaking at the event, researchers and women’s rights expert said the report findings corroborated women’s rights groups complaints in the past 30 decades, alongside proffering recommendations to address the negative impact of gender inequality in the current crisis.

Noting her disappoint with government’s inaction post the declaration of a national emergency on GBV last year, author, researcher and special adviser on civilian protection in north-east Nigeria, Chitra Nagarajan said peoples’ response to COVID-19 which is largely disbelief in the existence of the virus and distrust of government is a result of their previous experience of government’s mismanagement of public funding.

Patriarchal approaches such as threats of fines, Nagarajan said only serves to aggravate peoples’ distrust of government. She advocated government’s action and follow-up on the work done following the national emergency on GBV.

‘’It is not enough to declare to declare a state of emergency, you must show what has been done to address it.’’

Activist and Manager, Women’s Rights, Action Aid, Nkechi Ilochi-Omekedo, recommended increased funding of women and girls’ rights groups for continued address of GBV and other women issues. This, she said can be achieved through gender mainstreaming, mainstreaming women issues in all COVID-19 response plans; increased funding for the various stages of intervention by women’s group; and funding of grassroots organisations.

‘’This research tells us that there is a gap that needs to be filled in terms of financing women’s rights group. The report approach connects to other women in a larger group and the situation they faced. It showed new experiences and voices.’’

Ilochi however, noted the report should reflect on the quality of services delivered by CSOs and review how CSOs, women’s groups can be integrated.

Meantime, Director, Gender Action Peace and Security, Hannah Bond recommended use of women rights groups and networks to respond to women’s issues during the pandemic. She further tasked governments in the nine countries of research to cease talking about women’s participation and begin facilitating women participation in decisions that impact their lives.

‘’It is not about expanding the size of the table but changing the table and the way decisions are made so that women can participate in tables where decisions are made over our lives.

‘’There is a lot that we need to do, and if the world is to change, we need to look at the results of the research, and start implementing the recommendations because without that future pandemics, which we know will come, will be more devastating; but with it we could deliver a world that is free from violence and where women and girls are assured,’’ urged Bond.

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