Pervasive gendered impact of COVID-19 highlighted

By Angela L. Riccitello*

The gendered impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was the topic of a webinar by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL), the Global Coordinator of the Feminist Alliance for Rights, and entitled Gendered Impact of The COVID-19 Crisis: Holding Governments to Account. The impacts which include insufficient health, social, economic and security policies protecting women during the pandemic were highlighted by Radhika Balakrishnan, Faculty Director and James Heintz, Affiliate Member, CWGL.

Held on April 16, 2020, the webinar outlined the crisis from a feminist economics perspective and gave recommendations on how to hold governments to account.

“Covid-19 is a multi-dimensional crisis. People talk about it as a health crisis but it’s also a care crisis and an economic crisis. So an effective response has to address all three dimensions,” said Heintz. He explained how Covid-19 will only intensify existing economic inequalities and vulnerabilities along the lines of gender, race, ethnicity and class. The majority of women are informally employed and suffer from few social protections.

Heintz further noted the detrimental equation of Covid-19’s wrath. The constraints on labor supply plus falling labor demand equates to lower household income and consequences. He said: “Beyond the increased risk of destitution, there are reported increases in gender-based violence. For example, France reported a 30% increase or more of incidences.”

In her presentation, Balakrishnan noted the need to introduce new gender-aware social protection policies, including basic income support and cash transfers and taking measures to address increases in domestic violence.

She highlighted the need to nationalize the care sector and make it universal, as well as more work on the impact of austerity on the health sector and the impact on the expansion of care.

The speakers further highlighted unequal control and power dynamics in the household, leading to differences in bargaining power, issues of gender-based violence, and an amplifying care crisis with unpaid labor increasing for women. Heintz and Balakrishnan say adopting a gendered perspective is essential to confronting the pandemic’s impacts and to preserve the future of women’s rights as well as the global economy.

Global macroeconomic coordination is needed to mobilize resources across all countries as well as on-going gender responsive analysis of policy responses.

*Riccitello is a Journalism major at Rutgers University. She is currently interning with the Journalism Initiative on Gender-Based Violence project at the Center for Women’s Global Leadership. This summary was originally posted by the Journalism Initiative on Gender-Based Violence (JIG). JIG is a project led by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, the Global Coordinator of FAR, and is focused on strengthening GBV reporting worldwide.