19 March 2020 | News/Stories

Gender issues in the face of COVID-19

As nations clamber for ways to mitigate risk and minimise casualty with the increasing number of COVID-19 cases around the globe, the gendered impacts of this pandemic are also coming to the fore.

Flexible work and telecommuting options for both women and men have become necessary as part of precautionary measures to limit the exposure of people to the virus, thereby challenging gender norms on unpaid caring work.

Normalising the role of men in the home and encouraging them to share caring and household responsibilities have become even more critical, as the closure of schools increases the pressure for parents to care for children. Masculinity norms dictating that men are less likely to seek medical advice has increased men’s vulnerability to health risks.

The health and social care sector is highly feminised and at risk of contracting COVID-19. Many of its workers are nurses who serve as frontliners in hospitals to treat and help contain the outbreak. Global health emergencies exacerbate the burden of responsibilities on women and compromise their safety, and these are concerns that need to be addressed.

As part of our efforts to minimise further risk and damage, it is crucial for us to be aware of  the differing impacts of this pandemic on women and men, as well the gender norms that may  inhibit women’s and men’s chances of recovery not just from illness, but also from the negative effects this crisis will have on society and the economy.

Women’s economic empowerment has become an even greater challenge, with government-mandated quarantine and lockdown measures limiting the business activities of both SMEs (small-to-medium enterprises) and large private-sector companies.

Despite setbacks caused by the ongoing global health crisis, Investing in Women remains true to its commitment to advancing women’s economic empowerment. The IW team is rapidly adapting to support partners while prioritising the health and safety of our team and the communities we work in.

We have put in place operational measures to support telecommuting for our staff, cancelled non-essential travel and postponed face-to-face meetings and gatherings. We are also making every effort to maintain online connections and constant communication and support for our partners in Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Taking inspiration from IWD2020’s #EachforEqual campaign, we believe that each of us can do our part in addressing and overcoming major challenges such as COVID-19. Now is the time to make that happen.

Learn more about gender norms from this Social Norms, Attitudes and Practices Survey report by Investing in Women.

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