Around 150 people from diverse background attended a virtual discussion on Gendered Impacts of Covid-19 organized by UN Women on May 19.
Shoko Ishikawa, UN Women Country Representative chaired the webinar while Dr Abul Hossain, Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Women and Children Affairs and Project Director for Multisectoral Programme on Violence Against Women; Nobonita Chowdhury, Director, Gender Justice Diversity & Prevention of Violence Against Women initiative, BRAC; Dr Nazeen Ahmed, Senior Research Fellow, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies; and Shampa Goswami, Executive Director, Prerona Nari Unnayan Sangothon from Satkhira spoke as panelists. Moderator of the discussion Dilruba Haider of UN Women, presented the key findings from the Rapid Gender Analysis (RGA) of the impacts of Covid-19 produced by Gender in Humanitarian Action Working Group of the Humanitarian Coordination Task Team, an interagency working group co-chaired by Department of Women Affairs and UN Women.
The RGA was an attempt to identify the immediate impacts of Covid-19 on pre-existing social and economic vulnerabilities of women, girls and gender diverse groups, and the challenges faced by them in accessing public services and facilities, and therefore make recommendations for gender sensitive Covid-19 response. The RGA identified critical areas that are entrenching the inequity and rendering women, children and other gender groups more vulnerable: lack of access to basic services like health care, nutritional services, maternal health care and health care for GBV survivors; protection against GBV, massive loss of livelihoods; unequal unpaid and care work burden; lack of access to information leading to stigmatization; and lack of women and their agencies engagement in decision making processes of Covid-19 response.
During the panel discussion, the underlying factors of vulnerabilities and potential risks of women and marginalized groups was narrated by Nobonita Chowdhury in the light of BRAC’s own RGA. Dr Nazneen Ahmed focused on the economic aspects of the crisis and its implication for the lives and livelihoods of women, while recommending post Covid livelihood opportunities for women. Acknowledging Bangladesh’s high prevalence of violence against women and girls, and it’s trend soaring during this pandemic, Dr Abul Hossain shared how the services of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs such as the One Stop Crisis Centers at upazila level, National Trauma Counselling Centers and National Help Line for GBV: 109 (open 24/7) are continuing to support women during the crisis. He shared that the Help Line is in fact receiving approximately 10,000 calls a day now, up from an average of 6,000 calls before the Covid outbreak.
Shampa Goswami from Satkhira spoke about how her organization, Prerona, is actively engaging inresponding to the unprecedented public health crisis thorough communication activities and mask making as cash-for-work activities involving grassroots women. Goswami also voiced concerns about Cyclone Amphan and shared how the preparedness actions have been made more challenging due to Covid fears and requirements for social distancing. Prerona is one of the 56 grassroot women’s organizations that UN Women and Christian Aid are partnering with to strengthen their disaster management capacity.
The participants and the discussantsstrongly agreed with RGA finding particularly around the livelihood challenges and increase in gender-based violence, and requested greater attention by the Government of Bangladesh to the socio-economic impacts of Covid crisis which is disproportionately affecting women, girls and gender diverse groups.