‘COVID-19 has Deepened Pre-existing Gender Based Violence, Inequalities’

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By Sunday Ehigiator

Experts that spoke at the Hacey Health Initiative Women in Leadership one-day webinar, held in commemoration of the International Women’s Day (IWD) celebration have revealed that the COVID-19 has not only deepened the pre-existing gender-based violence and inequality in the country, but likewise exposed vulnerabilities in Nigeria’s economic system.

They made these statements while speaking at the webinar with the theme: ‘Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID World,’ where they likewise harped for more women to take up leadership roles in the country.

In her welcome address, the Executive Director, Hacey Health Initiative, Rhoda Robinson, explained that the IWD was a time to reflect on progress made by women, “to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women, who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.

“COVID-19 has amplified the inequalities women face every day and it’s very important to have a national and global recovery plan to address this across all sectors.

“Lockdowns implemented to curb the spread of the virus increased instances of Gender-Based Violence (GBV), curbed access to essential Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services, and seriously affected women’s livelihoods and economic opportunities.

“The pandemic-induced poverty surge increased the likelihood of widening the gender poverty gap; meaning, more women will be pushed into extreme poverty than men.

“The pandemic also affected intervention activities of developmental organisations and reduced access to much needed funding for the sustenance of progress to gender equality.

“With all this more women need to be in decision-making spaces and processes where responses to the impact of the pandemic are formed,” she said.

Delivering the keynote address, the Head of Sustainability, Access Bank Plc, Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan, noted that women have proven to produce phenomenal outcomes in challenging situations and effectively utilising their higher capacities to balance risk, and their resilience to bounce back from disasters.

“More girls are going to school, fewer girls are forced into early marriage, more women are serving in parliament and positions of leadership and laws are being reformed to advance gender equality.

“Indeed, over the past quarter-century, women’s influence over many facets of public life has increased significantly.

“Women are entering politics in greater numbers than ever before, and their influence over high-level decision-making has been growing.

“Women’s full and equal participation has also been recognized as essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” she said.

She, however, reiterated that inequality of access was still a key concern.

“Globally, nearly 40 per cent of women in wage employment are estimated to lack access to social protection.

“Women are less likely than men to have access to financial institutions or to have a bank account. one in five women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 report experiencing physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner within a 12-month period.

“A new study suggests the COVID-19 pandemic will have a disproportionate negative effect on women and their employment opportunities. The effects of this shock are likely to outlast the actual epidemic.

“It is therefore no longer news that COVID-19 has deepened pre-existing inequalities and exposed vulnerabilities in economic systems with more women than men at the receiving end.

“Nevertheless, as the fight against COVID-19 continues, an increasing number of women around the world are on the front lines bravely taking the lead and helping to promote health and wellness for everyone despite facing a large amount of unpaid care work in caring for children and their families,” she added.