The United Nations has called for specific action for women on the frontline in the fight against COVID-19. It urged governments to take action for women who make up about 70% of staff of health and social services, adding that the stress and mental burden they often face at home requires specific action.
Anita Bhatia, Deputy Executive Director, UN Women Deputy Executive Director, said: “We need to make sure that we take care of their needs, such as providing them with protective equipment, working conditions that do not make their daily lives burdensome, that preserve their immune system.
“And then we need policy measures that show the role that women play. If you turn on the television you see mainly men talking about the pandemic,” she observed.
With over 90 countries around the world on lockdown and about 4 billion people trapped in their homes, the UN has warning of of increased violence against women. According to recent surveys, the number of assaults has increased by an average of 30%, in France, Argentina and Singapore.
Speaking on the issue earlier this week, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres said: “I call on all governments to make preventing and combating violence against women a key part of their response to COVID-19. This means increasing investment in online services and civil society associations.
“It means ensuring that justice continues to work against perpetrators. Emergency systems in pharmacies or food stores must be put in place. Foster homes must become an essential service. Finally, safe support systems must be created without drawing the attention of the abusers.”
The United Nations stressed that the economic impact of the coronavirus will affect women more violently since many women receive lower incomes, and are less protected.
Short and medium-term national responses could therefore include programmes to ensure their economic resilience and improve their capacity to absorb future shock.
Joanna Maycock, Secretary General, European Women’s Lobby added her voice to calls to protect women: “What is needed now is for the European Union to allow and ensure that governments are able to invest in public services over the long term, that they are not subject to austerity measures.
“We must ensure that these recovery plans and investment strategies are built on the daily reality and the reality of women’s work. This perspective must be present in the design and launch of these investments and support mechanisms.”
Women in developing countries also have to give birth in difficult conditions, they have limited access to health services and family planning centres.