The civil society organizations participating in the Gender Monitoring Network facilitated by UN Women, are concerned by how the Covid-19 pandemic is disproportionally affecting women and girls
As the Covid-19 pandemic crisis deepens, the economic and social stress combined with movement restrictions and social isolation measures are mounting existing inequalities more than ever, gender inequality being the most pervasive of all. Across every sphere, from access to prevention information, means such as water and WASH facilities to implement preventive measures, testing and treatment to loss of livelihoods and exposure to violence and abuse, the impacts of Covid-19 are being felt differently among men and women and gender diverse persons. Lockdowns and social distancing have resulted in sharp increases in domestic and care work needs within the household. Despite both men and women being at home, Covid-19 has disproportionately increased the burden of unpaid domestic and childcare work, especially of mothers. Women and girls and transgender persons from slums, rural and remote areas, indigenous communities, elderly women, women heads of household, those living with disabilities, facing violence at home, and making a living through informal work such as domestic work and sex work live with the intersectional and compounded discrimination due to class, gender, ethnicity, different ability, occupation, etc. They are experiencing further socio-economic marginalization due to Covid-19.
Call for action
The signatories call the government of Bangladesh to ensure a gender-responsive, human rights based inclusive response to Covid-19 through the following actions:
• Have stronger inter-ministerial coordination of the socio-economic response to Covid-19, focusing on gender equality and social inclusion of the most vulnerable.
• Increase women’s representation in Covid-19 response planning and decision-making, consultation with organizations and networks that represent the voices of women and gender-diverse populations.
• Declare Gender-Based Violence (GBV) response services as essential and life-saving services and allocate additional resources to ensure continued operation of justice, health and social services for affected women and women at risk.
• Ensure that women and girls in the marginalized communities have access to Covid-19 public health and GBV prevention and response messages, including on child marriage, through more accessible means of communication such as TV, radio and SMS.
• Prevent sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA) in quarantine and isolation centres and during relief distribution through adopting a code of conduct, training personnel, and distributing information to beneficiaries.
• Pay attention to the significant role that women are playing as frontline health workers and community health workers, by raising awareness amongst the general public to combat the social stigma surrounding women health professionals and ensuring their access to women-friendly PPE and support for their mental, physical, sexual and reproductive health. Support them manage their family care responsibilities through flexible hours and access to Covid-safe childcare services.
• Ensure that provision of sexual and reproductive health care services is continued, with special attention to adolescent girls.
• Strengthen implementation and monitoring of government’s relief measures such as food and cash distribution by partnering with NGOs and Community Based Organizations led by women and gender-diverse people that can ensure that the most vulnerable people are reached.
• Urgently expand the existing social safety net and cash transfer programs targeting the newly vulnerable women, girls and gender-diverse people to ensure food security, and to compensate women, especially those in the informal sector, who have lost their income or need to reduce their working hours due to increased unpaid care responsibilities.
• Design economic response and recovery packages with a gender lens and assess their impact on women and men.
• In order to ensure that all women and girls have access to information and digitalized services that are being promoted to respond to Covid, close the digital gender gap in partnership with the private sector by subsidizing or introducing affordable internet connections and devices and building the capacities and skills of women and girls.
• Launch a nationwide advocacy and media campaign, inclusive of disabilities and other diversities, to address and prevent gender-based violence, end child marriage and other harmful practices for women and girls and promote sharing of household and caring responsibilities between women and men and transgender persons.
The Call for Action comes as an urgent appeal to the government and policymakers, endorsed by the following civil society organizations (in alphabetic order) representing the Gender Monitoring Network:
Ain O Shalish Kendra, Bandhu, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, Bangladesh Nari Sromik Kendra, Bindu, Christian Aid, Light House, Manusher Jonno Foundation, Naripokkho, and Prottoy Unnayan Shongstha.