Humanitarian contexts affect women more heavily: 70 per cent of women experience gender-based violence (GBV) in humanitarian contexts compared with 35 per cent worldwide. Humanitarian crises disrupt family and social networks, change the roles played by different genders and break down protection structures. Existing inequalities for women and girls risk being further exacerbated during and after a crisis.
Adolescent girls in conflict zones are 90 per cent more likely to be out of school than girls in non-conflict settings. Sixty per cent of preventable maternal mortality takes place in settings of conflict, displacement, and natural disasters. Every day, 507 women and adolescent girls die from pregnancy and childbirth complications in emergency settings.
COVID-19 has shed even greater light on the full extent of gender inequality, its impacts on women and girls and their exposure to violence. Across the globe domestic violence has been exacerbated by quarantine measures as victims and survivors are confined with their abusers. UNFPA predicts 15 million additional cases of gender-based violence for every three months of lockdown. The pandemic's effects could also bring about an additional 13 million cases of child marriage - which can be avoided. While GBV and gender equality are not synonymous and should be treated as distinct streams of work, GBV is included together with gender equality to reinforce the need to address the gender inequality root causes of GBV and, in order to achieve gender equality, women and girls must be protected from GBV.
Women make up the majority of those in the health and social work industry. They are frequently called on to care for family including the sick and elderly, putting them at increased risk of infection. Women face other knock-on effects of the pandemic: access to sexual and reproductive health are disrupted as are livelihoods, due to their lack of access to resources and/or their prevalence in the informal economy.
The gendered implications of the COVID-19 health emergency have been prioritized by humanitarian actors from the onset of the COVID-19 response. Gender analysis and implications have been highlighted in the Global Humanitarian Response Plan to mitigate protection and social economic impacts of COVID on women and girls in humanitarian settings.
- ActionAid (2016). On the frontline: Catalyzing women’s leadership in humanitarian action, p. 10; OCHA (2016) World Humanitarian Data and Trends 2016, p.3
- UNESCO, Humanitarian aid for education: Why it matters and why more is needed, 2015
- OCHA, World Humanitarian Data and Trends 2016
- UNFPA, New UNFPA projections predict calamitous impact on women’s health as COVID-19 pandemic continues, 28 April 2020
- UNFPA, Millions more cases of violence, child marriage, female genital mutilation, unintended pregnancy expected due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 28 April 2020
- United Nations, Gender equality in the time of COVID-19, 2020